I removed the glass plate from the microwave to wash it. Since I’m still as spatially challenged as I was the last time I washed it, I hoped that I could put it back without asking my husband to explain how to properly fit the three molded triangles on the bottom of the plate onto the floor of the microwave. I looked at the plate and thought, “I have to learn how to do this.” Then I noticed the spaces in between the triangles. Maybe I have to concentrate on fitting the spaces properly – not the triangles. It worked!
And now my epiphany. How often in our lives do we need to look at the “spaces between” before we take action? In my microwave incident, I needed a change in focus or in orientation. In other cases we may just need to pause and rest in a space to gain new perspective or to choose an action.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was doing when he waited for days to visit Lazarus (John 11). Maybe Paul’s blindness upon seeing the risen Christ became his change in focus (Acts 9: 1-19). Peter’s”space between” was a vision of a sheet being lowered which contained “all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air” along with the Voice that warned him not to call any person “common or unclean” (Acts 10: 9-16). This pause in his life changed his vision of the early church and influenced at the Council of Jerusalem to accept Gentiles into the church – thus opening the Way of Jesus to the entire world (Acts 15).
Here are some times when we may want to take advantage of the “space between”that may prevent “life-thwarting” behaviors:
- reading an e-mail and writing a response
- encountering a reckless driver and responding
- hearing a juicy, gossipy story and sharing it on Facebook or with friends
- receiving a compliment and denying it
- hearing angry words and turning your back or fighting back
And here are times when using the space between may be “life-giving:”
- waking up and getting up
- hearing bird songs and walking away
- moving from this task to the next one
- hearing a child’s “why” and choosing an answer
- turning off the light and falling asleep
Concentrating on the “space between” is part of the training of an Apprentice of Jesus. It is more difficult to focus on the potential of a space in time than on a particular activity (simplicity, Bible reading, truth-telling). However, this is the blessing of the intentional journey of spiritual formation. It brings us in contact with parts of our lives we generally ignore.