God beckons storm clouds and they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains, 'You go there,' and He says to the seas, 'You stop here, and they do it. Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator...until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, 'No.”
David Platt, Radical
Everything will resist your attempts to slow down, de-clutter and edit your life, especially if your heart is to spend deep soul time with Jesus. Everything. Not just the world with all of its constant demands and electronic connections, but maybe even those you love as well. Your family. Your church. You. Your very own heart, especially your wily heart.
I often feel tired just from the effort of saying no with grace and meaning it. Do I have to have a conflict or commitment to justify my no? What if my soul is calling?
As soon as I say no, the doubt comes rushing in like a tidal wave. Couldn’t I do just this one little thing? What am I so busy doing? Who will I let down? What will I miss? Is my “No” understood? Do I even understand it?
Do any of those doubts sound familiar to you?
If we are looking for white space to meet with Jesus, we will be swimming upstream. We will need honesty, strength, grit and resolve. We’ll need a revolution of the heart and mind to reach our sacred soul.
As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted
that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side
while he dismissed the people.
With the crowd dispersed,
he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray.
He stayed there alone, late into the night.
This is what Jesus did between two great works of love, between feeding the five thousand and shushing the waves. He had to send everyone away at some point and be alone with his Father. He had to. Notice the words around how he did it. He insisted. He sent others on ahead. He dismissed and dispersed the people, both the crowds and the disciples. Everyone.
I have found carving out white space in my life for solitude, prayer, rest and soul keeping is not easy. I need space between things to take it all in, the firehose of life and sorrow and the Holiness of my Maker. I am being called to reflect, to forgive, to consider, to listen, to be generous, to be sorry, sometimes to grieve. My heart needs a moment to gather wisdom and express gratefulness.
When I read the full story in Matthew 14 of Jesus trying to carve out his own white space, I recognize a few things. Even Jesus needed perseverance. He had already tried to get alone with his Father just before the feeding of the five thousand and the crowds followed him. Not to be deterred, he tried again at a better time.
Not only were the people following him, but even after some time alone with God, the story says the wind rose boisterous and contrary. Everyday life is like that wind, boisterous and contrary to our need for restoration and filling with the sacred, for time to tend our souls. Even after Jesus calms the wild current and the proud waves, like Peter, we have to set our eyes on his face to meet him on the water.
The sort of white space I am talking about goes beyond leisure, comfort and down time. Soul keeping white space is fought for and opens me up to hold what Michael Card calls a violent grace.
White space between works of love, to meet Jesus and feed your soul rarely comes naturally, without intention or even a knock-down, drag-out fight.
Soul-keeping white space is counter cultural. It will not match what you read in a glossy magazine. It will not fit neatly into current trends or popular opinion. If I am following the Jesus of the Bible, then I will be crossing boundaries in keeping with both God's love and burning holiness.
Soul-keeping white space is revolution. Hard as I might try, I don't actually keep my soul in the sense of holding on to it. Jesus holds it by the cross that tore the heavens and the earth and bridged the divide all at once. I am surrendering my soul to Him who spun it and then bought it freedom by God's violent grace.
I am fiercely clearing out space for my soul, to breath, to connect with Jesus and to be tuned by his hand like a fiddle.
In my smallness, I am trying to come to Jesus with many, many questions and not many presupposed answers; my own, those of other people or the tide of popular opinion. This meeting takes determination, surrender and courage. There has to be room for mystery, wrestling and surprise. If Jesus doesn't blow my mind or rattle my bones, I may just be meeting a tender soul or a wise teacher, but not Jesus the Christ.
I am taking my shoes off. I am coming barefoot because I am here to meet Holy.