In knitting, the way the thread holds together and the tension one uses to knit the yarn matters because the space that is in between the stitches also matters. Space matters in knitting because the amount of space or the ‘holes’ that show through create a certain look depending on whether it is very little space, tightly knit, or flowing and loosely knit. In the overall big picture neither method is better than the other, it just depends on what it is you are knitting and is the purpose to create warmth or a solid pattern or to create space in the stitches for a more lacey, intricate look or a cooler feeling garment.
Space matters in all kinds of ways in our life together and as individuals too. How much space one needs may depend on personality, or task or culture or spirit. It may depend on what the hoped for outcome of an experience is or where one has found themselves on the path of life or encounter with God. We used the word space to mean so many different things–space for our stuff, space for our bodies, personal comfort level of being touched, and space to think or feel or contemplate or be in the presence of God.
Over the past 5 weeks we have experienced all kinds of space issues and situations-some sacred and some not so much. Our suitcases for example are ones that we can carry on our back and can get into the overhead compartment of an airplane if needed. So all we brought will fit into that one bag. At first we thought no way, we are gone 5 weeks in climates that changed from a high of 50 degrees to a high of 98! But we soon discovered we had actually brought too much and began to ditch things! Also, our space together as a family shrunk to about a quarter of it’s normal size. Going from a house where everyone has their own room and a yard and a porch and a bathroom to places where are much closer together, including one stay where we were all in one room together, has it’s ‘knit together’ blessings and challenges!
We also discovered that culturally different places and people see space differently. In Iceland there is space everywhere-parks, streets are wide, people sit near one another but not too close in restaurants and cafes and buses. In Paris and Rome, space is limited–in a café it is one person right next to the other whether you know each other nor, on the metro you must push to claim your space and only take as much as your body fills!
It is interesting to me how the physical space I have can have such an effect on the mental and emotional space I have as well. Tight spaces made it difficult for me to be present and as soon as I had even just a little more space I could experience the moment more fully. We went to many places that are deemed ‘sacred’. From little country churches in Iceland to Norte Dame and Vatican City. From the mountain top of a sacred hill in the north of Iceland to the community of Taine, to a little meditative field in Assisi. All these spaces sacred in some way–either in the past or also in the present. I would not say that each of these spaces ‘felt’ sacred to me although all were appreciated for one element or another. Yet all were spaces where we took a moment to be in that space, to be present to the history or spirituality or community that it was reaching from the past into the present future. Being in these kinds of sacred spaces was a new way of honoring who we were and are from the depths of history and creating new meaning for our life together going forward. These spaces brought new understanding to what I consider sacred and also how I honor the sacred space and spirituality of others. They are spaces that opened our eyes not just to a different time or place but to a new understanding of self and the connection of communal spaces and experiences.
Psalm 139 speaks of the spaces, the promises, and the presence of God in our innermost being, our creation, our thoughts and all our spaces in between: O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you. O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Parts of this psalm I can read and feel wow–there is no space between me and God and that can feel crowded and it can feel freeing at the same time. I can hear the writer asking for God’s promise to continue, to be in all the spaces whether they are large or small, grand monuments or a quiet breeze. All these spaces and times are sacred from the moment of our creation. And so I discovered again a truth that has been revealed before and will be over and over–sacred space is sometimes a church or a history or a tradition and sometimes it is the shade of a tree or a conversation or the gift of your teenager falling asleep with their head on your shoulder on a train. God is revealed in many, many ways. God is in the tightly knit spaces and in the big flowing holes of life too. God is in our past, a part of the spaces that were before us and in between us and God is reaching into the present future creating new spaces knit together with the old.
What are the physical spaces that have been or remain sacred spaces for you? What are moments that you have experienced as sacred? How do you create mental and emotional and spiritual spaces throughout your day? Where would you like to feel more closely knit and where do you want to have more open space?