Making Space for People --
Over the past couple of weeks I have been in numerous conversations, situations with a number of people in which I am learning the grace of making space for people. What I mean is not only making space for them in my life, but also space for them in their lives. This creating of space comes through being present with them, listening, hearing, engaging them, not according to my agenda, but allowing their conversation, their experience to set the agenda.
I am beginning to see that much of my life has been lived trying to carve out a space in life for my own agenda, for me -- what I want to see happen, how I want to grow, what I want to experience -- and somehow through that thinking that I will experience freedom, joy, and life. It seems that we go through life trying to create a space for ourselves and we connect with those who "fit" into our space somehow, or we "fit" somehow into their space. But is this the way we are to live life, is this the way we are to be in community with one another?
Over the past few weeks as I have made myself available to people, I came to see that my being open to the space they were trying to create, the space they needed, and not trying to create a space for myself alongside their space, that I was invited into their space -- to hear their stories, to hear their dreams, to hear their struggles, to hear their pain. I discovered that I heard more clearly, experienced a little of what they were experiencing -- and in the midst of it I did not lose something of myself, but I was enriched by the community that was being shared. The stuff I contributed to the conversation, was also not so much stuff that came out of my need for space, but it came out of my joining in with them, in being with them, walking with them, coming alongside them. I found myself making myself available to them for their benefit and not for mine -- yet, in this giving, I received something I did not expect -- I experienced a whole new kind space.
The space I experienced was a shared space, it was not a space I selfishly tried creating for myself, but by being with someone in which we walked together -- there was a sense of community, a sense of sharing, a sense of trust, a sense of being in the same story -- in which a new kind of space was formed.
There is a certain joy to living life this way. Rather than life being aimless, in that we are not setting our own goals, striving to showcase our own egos -- so much of our culture expresses that we have to create our own lives, make our own space in this world if we are ever to amount to anything, I am discovering that maybe I am beginning to see that the real purpose of life is discovered, not when I try to take life, but when I receive it as a gift. This is no couch-potato way of living because it continually calls us to be open to the lives of others around us, making ourselves available as gifts in their lives so that they can experience life as a gift as well.
I can't help but think this is what happened when God became one of us, by taking on humanity in Jesus Christ. John's gospel says that he "set up his tent amongst us, to dwell among us and with us." As the author of life, he did not come crashing into human history creating space for his agenda -- but rather he walked with people, talked with people, ate with people, touched people who were considered untouchable -- not by invading their space, but by sharing the gift of life with them as they opened up the space of their lives and invited him in. Even though Jesus lived purposefully, he seemed to be open to the lives of others, allowing them to create a space in their lives where he could join them and be with them in ways that they received life as a gift, rather than something they grabbed, took. It was when people invited Jesus into their space, that they discovered life as they never could have.
So maybe one of the secrets of living life, experiencing life is not to find ways of taking it, but to be open to receive it as a gift, from others, through others -- who may be vessels through whom the author of life pours out his gift of life to each of us. That seems to take the stress out of life and the heartache I cause myself as I try to create a space for myself in life.
Maybe we live our lives more on purpose when we are open to others who are all around us.