5: A spacious place #Lent2021

God brought me out into a spacious place. (Psalm 18:19)

When I walked the Cradle Mountain trail, many days were traipsing down and up forested mountains. Narrow paths dot-to-dotted between moss covered rocks, ancient trees closing their ranks overhead, majestic scrub on either side that hid vast ecosystems, hushed winds, and crowded out the sun. We were often compelled to speak in whisper – you couldn’t help but defer to the spirituality of it, the secrets of the depth and the density. I loved it, no doubt, and wouldn’t have been able to say I felt anything missing. But then.

To emerge into the wide open plains of the mountain tops. Up so high, all the mighty mountains in the distance below eye level. Grassy plains spotted with determined shrubs and well-worn wombat tracks, wind whipped and sun soaked since time immemorial. Bare, hardy, few secrets (or were there?). The sky not just 2D but a dome, stretching sunrise to sunset into a vast sphere.

When I first walked out into the plains, as when I read this verse, I felt known and at home. My shoulders and forehead opened up to their surroundings and relaxed their monkey grip on my bones. I breathed more easily, stepped more strongly and realised then, what has probably always been true for me:

I love a spacious place,
an open space,
broad horizons,
flexibility,
wide seas of possibilities,
free to do and be
whatever may compel me.

For years I carried that Tasmanian scenery and this verse in my pocket as a roadmap to find myself when I needed. Physically, metaphorically, personally, spiritually – how can I find a spacious place here? It affected how I set up our house, what jobs I worked, how I communicated, the way I followed recipes. I felt peace in a spacious place so a spacious place I pursued.

This has served me well for many years, and I’m grateful for this short line of Psalm to sum up that sacred part of myself and guide me back there again and again.

But then.

Lately, I’ve been thinking. What secrets did the majestic forests hide, that I missed in my focus on getting back out to the grassy plains? Can I bring a spaciousness to crowded places? As much as I am energised by a sky that stretches to the sun, can I get restored by the shade of a dense canopy?

My brain tells me yes, as God made and is in both, so I’m trying to walk (metaphorical) narrow paths through thick forests more patiently. Life is a dot to dot between moments of feeling cramped and stifled and crowded, and my task right now is not to find peace by straining for towards the far off open horizon, but by breathing the grace of space into the place I am in. Ω

Reflect: Where do you experience spaciousness? How do you bring that feeling into the crowded routines of daily life? Pause, remembering a spacious place, and rest in that memory now.

What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.

#Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, from Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.

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