Love Creates Space

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 Love creates space. It creates a gracious, hospitable, sacred space, where boundless possibilities exist.

 Speaking of which, four years ago, I met the philosopher, Jacob Needleman, for the first time in a Seattle bookstore.

 When Jacob arrived, there was a felt sense of quiet and space, an atmosphere of calm expectancy, quite unlike the arrival of a rock star!

 Later, at Seattle’s Gurdjieff society, where Dr Needleman led a discussion, it was even quieter, an even greater expansion of space.

 I met people that day who were so very comfortable with space and silence. They seemed to trust and relish the silence.

 There wasn’t the usual chatter one expects to find at a gathering. Instead there was a respectful silence, so rich and deep that, I immediately felt relaxed and alert in response.

 In my own way, I have tried to create this quality of life-giving space. Some years ago, one of my Yoga students, a school administrator, told me that my Calgary Yoga Academy was an extremely controlled space.

 I took this as criticism at first. But I quickly learned that by a ‘controlled space, she did not mean a stifling, inhibiting or censoring space. Rather, as she made clear, I had created a custom-made space, in which human beings could find themselves and flourish.

 Through words I’ll never forget, she exclaimed: “In your controlled Yoga space, I have never felt freer!”  

 My student, the administrator, I am sure, had already cultivated an inner space within herself such that she was completely at home in the Yoga sanctuary. There was a very evident correspondence between the quality of her own rich inner life and the sacred space of the Calgary Yoga Academy

 She lived in a good space, and radiated that always, during her years of attending classes.

 I cannot help recall, however, the number of times over the years when that same nurturing space was felt by some to be some kind of menacing threat. 

 Some were terrified by the space and the quiet, and in response, would sometimes hastily flee the room, never to return! 

 I always found it hard to comprehend, as some would panic in that warm and inviting Yoga studio, and hightail it out the door.

 Nothing appears to scare some folk more than quiet, space and silence. 

 Perhaps somehow they would rather be where there is noise, and lots of it! Or maybe they'd like to be somewhere filling up the space with arguments

 In 19th century London, there was a Congregationalist preacher named Joseph Parker, a contemporary of the famous Baptist, Charles Spurgeon.

 In his autobiography, Parker recalled that when he was a child, his home was often a center for noisy and loud theological arguments.

 Quite a few men would gather to engage in heated arguments. They met in what Parker called the “academic kitchen” of his home. (Joseph Parker, D.D. Tyne Chyle: My Life and Teaching, p.4 London, 1883.) 

 Parker described the men who came to do battle, “restless and eager disputants." For them, “to live was to argue," and “not to argue was to die.”  

 Parker described his memory of the “kitchen academics” in this way: “The subject was generally theological, and raged most fiercely around the 9th chapter of Romans, especially in reference to the cold and chilling figure of the potter and the clay.”  

 The leader of the group, said Parker, was a “strong Calvinist, and all the stronger for knowing nothing about Calvinism, along with several Arminians who were equally ignorant.” 

 The chief concern of the kitchen academics, was to “prove that very few people could be saved, and that those who were not saved, would wallow in fire and brimstone eternally.” 

 Excluding of course, themselves, who most certainly would be spared from the wrath of God! As Parker put it: “They regarded themselves as at least one kitchen-full of really saved people.” 

 These really saved people, said Parker, demonstrated that “ignorance cannot doubt."  

 “On and on” it would go, as Parker remembered: “The kitchen, the hot coffee, the emulous smokers, the fierce debaters, my sweet mother on the fringe of the assembly heartily wishing that Calvin had never been born.” 

 For the young Joseph Parker, these battles were “like a troubled dream.” 

 His response was the realization that, "a Calvinist he would never be.

 No! Instead, Parker would become, in his life and ministry, an inspiring preacher who continually created enormous space for people to grow and flourish in.

 For example, this space-creating preacher understood and taught that God is so much greater than what our minds can comprehend. 

 Parker taught a reverential humility, awe and wonder before the unknowable, incomprehensible, God. 

 Quoting from the book of Job, Parker stated: ”God is great, and we know him not. God is unknown, unknowable, yet not the less the one Reality and the one Energy of the Universe.” (Joseph Parker, Preaching Through the Bible Vol. l p. 36) 

 “I am tired,” said Parker, “of the Known and the Knowable. Soul of man, if thou wouldst truly see, see the Boundless, see the Possible.” 

 "See God by going into the dark when and where the darkness is thickest. That is the mighty and solemn sanctuary of vision.” 

 In a rebuke to the bumptious, Parker stated: “The light is vulgar in some uses. God hideth himself, oftenest in the light.” In other words - you think you know? You do not. 

 Some years ago, after a fifteen year absence from church, my wife one day asked me to attend the Catholic Latin Mass with her.

 Upon sitting down in the sanctuary, my immediate sense was that in this ancient liturgy there was some sacred space that I could feel at home in. There was room in the Latin Mass for mystery and for wonder. 

 In such a solemn space, I began to feel that I could perhaps recover and affirm a faith I was in danger of losing entirely. 

 In that context, I felt a sense of joy, and of that level of knowing that Parker called “wider than knowledge.” 

 According to the space-creating, Joseph Parker, God is “best defined when undefined. He is a Fire that may not be touched.

 "Who is He? God. What is he? God. He is at once the question and the answer, the self-balance, the All.” 

 "God! God! God! ever hidden, ever present, ever distant, ever near, a Spirit, a Breath, making the knees knock in terror, ripping open a grave at the very feet of our pleasure, a mocking laugh at the feasts, filling all space like the light yet leaving room for all his creatures - a Terror, a Hope Undefinable, Unknowable, Irresistible, Immeasurable.” 

 Here is an understanding of God as a space enhancer. Here is a God in whose presence one can find one's bearings and grow wings in response.

  Think of your best moments. Moments of inspiration. Your sense of space is enlarged and deep change is possible because of it. 

 Early in Joseph Parker’s ministry, he was severely criticized for his preaching style. But a kind, space-creating man intervened to keep him from becoming “fatally discouraged.” 

 In a life-changing encounter, the young Joseph Parker said to the kind man:  “They say I am theatrical and bombastic.”

 The man: “They are fools, my boy. You are but a boy and your mistakes are nearly as numerous as your sentences but, I like a boy’s bold mistakes. All will be right at last. Go on trust in God and try again.” 

 The man again: “Is your heart right with God, Joseph?” 

 Parker: “You make me tremble, sir.” 

 The man: “Tremble, but answer.” 

 Parker: “Lord Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love Thee.” 

 The man: “All that matters, Joseph, is whether your heart is right. Give a me a sound heart and all the rest will be alright.”

 Parker: “But I do not do good in the way that others preachers do.” 

 In response, the space-giving man told the young Joseph Parker that he was not required to be like the others. He was to be himself.

 Parker, in despair, had felt that the space was closing in on him.

 People who lived in enclosed spaces were determined to end the young preacher's career.

 The older wise man opened a space for Parker to be himself, and to find his own voice and way of being in the world.

 This is what love does. It has a way of creating a space when it seems that none is available.