Spaciousness. A word and idea I’ve been hearing a lot lately.
In the last few days, I’ve been looking at pictures that Mitch, my beloved partner in life, takes in the park, in the woods, or on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in the city where we live. We want to enlarge a few. When I am looking at them I am reminded of the spaciousness of the landscapes we view here. The expansiveness of very old cedar trees that have towered toward the sky for hundreds of years, the expansiveness of our ocean view that even stretches to the Olympic Mountains that are another country away, or the sea of flowers that take our breath away in a local yard or park open us up to the breadth of the natural world. That sense of spaciousness cannot be captured. The pictures only remind me of the awe I experienced at the moment when I was standing at that spot.
The spaciousness of this place is tangible and being open to what is beyond my physical surrounding is a kind of spaciousness, too. I am narrowed by my thinking that I don’t do the right thing or I waste the time I have. I am narrowed by expectations that cause me to think less of my own life or the lives of others. I am expanded when I cultivate another view from the inside as well.
I’ve read the verses from Phillipians 4: 6-7 thousands of times. I’ve repeated over and over, days on end, “with prayer and supplication, with gratitude” to remind myself how not to be anxious about living. A few days ago, I used these verses for Lectio Divina, and I learned again that the spaciousness of God reverses the narrowness of trying to figure everything out when I am anxious. The time I spend in silence and gratitude cultivates God’s spacious presence.
The lesson came in an unexpected way last Saturday. My friend traumatically lost her husband a couple of weeks ago. As we gathered at her house for a meal after the celebration of his life, I witnessed the kind of roominess that is engendered by God’s opening of our spirits.
My friend is known for her baking—supplying, in this case, a most elegant chocolate cake that was filled with memories for this family. Her 10-year-old nephew reminded her that he would “decorate” the cakes. She gently replied that there might not be any decorating on this day.
But then, when the time came for the cakes to be served, I witnessed her and her nephew Matt standing side by side at the kitchen counter that faces out on one of those expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.
My friend removed the chocolate cake from each springform pan and placed it on a plate. She loaded the top with hand-whipped cream and fresh raspberries. I supposed that was probably her intent for readying the cake for serving on this difficult day.
However, Matt stood beside her with the professional pastry bag with the fluted tip in place. He loaded the bag with more of the whipped cream and deftly decorated the top of each cake with another layer of sculpted cream. The pair seemed to work effortlessly through 5 cakes lovingly prepared for gathered family and closest friends.
Maybe at some point in time, she showed him how to do this task—but I saw none of that at this time. I watched her just seamlessly offer him the next step to finish what she had started, without saying a word. No “good job” or checking to see if he needed more cream or directing in any way; just giving space to be in that moment.
To live in spaciousness, our responses aren’t reasoned out, even in the most challenging circumstances or in the daily hum. Thomas Kelly, in Testament of Devotion, says that the Light within revises our reactions to the world so that they are “spontaneous reactions of felt incompatibility between the world’s judgments of value and the Supreme Value we adore deep in the Center.”
There is a wideness in God’s mercy from this spacious view.