Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Space in Between, Part XII: Holding Space

Looking back at some of my chaplaincy writings...

The Israelites were camped at the edge of the Jordan River. After three days, the people were told, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before." The priests carrying the ark of the covenant were told, "When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river." As their feet touched the water's edge, the water stopped flowing from upstream and the riverbed appeared. "The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground" (Joshua 3).

I love love love this image.  God did not move all the obstacles out of the way before His people arrived.  Instead, they had to get their feet wet, taking steps of faith into seemingly-insurmountable obstacles.  My mind goes readily to conversations like that, when I don't know where we'll wind up or how we'll get there, but we step in faith into the soul waters -- sometimes deep, sometimes cold, sometimes swift and dangerous -- and watch as God begins to do miracles.

The priests carrying the ark of the covenant -- a symbol of God's presence -- entered the water.  In that simple act of faith by obedient people, God cleared the way for forward motion by removing barriers they couldn't cross on their own.  The presence of the priests created and held space for God's miracle -- and all they did was stand there as a symbol of God's presence, pointing attention to Him.  It is worth noting, too, that they waited in that in-between place until all had gone through.  They stayed present rather than running ahead.

I don't think this is only about priests long ago; it can be a metaphor for today, too. In my own life, God has sometimes cleared the way for forward motion by working through fellow human beings to remove barriers in my heart and mind. Sometimes the engaged presence of another has created and held space for God's work. Sometimes what I have most needed from these friends is for them to remain present and represent God's presence, helping me to see and attend to Him.

No comments: