Sacred Space (& How to Increase Yours in the Every Day)
There is a little camp, up on a hill, in Northern California.
It’s grounds are hugged by tall Redwood trees, and there, the air smells like home to me. I first drove up the road to this place, when I was 9 years old, in the backseat of an old Suburban. My heart was racing, it was the first time being away from my parents for that long, and I was anxious to be with so many new people. I felt a combination of what I think most kids feel on their first day of camp...nervous-excited, with a pinch of insecurity and a dash of homesickness.
Just a few years later, on that same hill, I heard the sure whisper of God speak destiny, identity, and a calling to preach into my ear. I’ll never forget His words: “Victoria, you will preach the Gospel to the nations. You will preach the Gospel to the lost and the found, my words will always be on your lips.” In that simple worship hall, I dedicated my purity to God, shed big tears of disappointment, and watched Jesus mend my broken, 16-year old heart. Along the off beaten, sun-kissed trails, I found clarity about where to go to college, and on a rusted bunk bed where I laid my head one Winter night, I prayed about marrying Reed, and felt a peaceful “Yes” fill me up.
When I first drove up that old road, I could have never known what that place would become. In just a few weeks, I’ll be in that same worship hall, as a speaker for a women’s retreat. How wild to think of all the pivotal moments that have happened there - in private and in public. I joke that around every corner, lives a “Jesus secret” - a moment or memory where I was intimately met by Savior. This camp is not just safe or special, it is sacred to me.
During the dog days of this summer past, Reed and I spent a few weeks there. We had the gift of pastoring kids and supporting other leaders who were bringing their communities up to hear and feel God a little more closely. I noticed a pattern, as the weeks continued. On the last day of camp, students and leaders alike would feel an anxiety...a fear rush over them. “What if all I’ve seen, felt, heard, and done here gets lost as I go back down the mountain?” The worship sets, messages, and conversations centered on how to keep what was found, and not become discouraged as the “camp high” settled and real life beckoned.
This got me thinking: what is it that makes this camp so sacred? Can the experience of this place be recreated, lived and experienced in my daily life? What makes ANY place sacred, secure, and significant?
I know I’m not reaching very far when I say we all have a sacred space. Maybe you do, and you don’t even know it! What are the central threads in those places where life feels real, refreshing, and inspiring? Here are some clues and common denominators as we identify our sacred space(s):
Common Denominators of Sacred Space:
A removal, physically, mentally, or both, from the distractions of daily life.
An expectation to receive.
A change of pace.
Connectors and connecting moments (i.e. music, food, conversation or games around a table, corporate learning and awe, intentional gratitude.)
Simple routine and limited entertainment.
As I continued to ponder these commonalities and the nature of sacred space, I learned that in a simple sense, sacred space is just about making room for what our soul desperately craves. The nature of that place(s) may vary...it could be a camp, a lake, a home, time with a specific person, or even a chair! (My Grammy spends time every morning in a white chair in her living room, and it is her favorite place in the world.)
Though powerful and helpful, understanding what our sacred space looks like is just the top layer of a deeper understanding. It is less about the WHAT and the WHERE, and more about the WHY and the HOW. Why do we go to these spaces? Maybe we go to find rest, escape, learn, hear, or belong. We go to get our craving satisfied.
For me, those cravings are deep connection with God, to exist and make creatively, and to be present - mind, body, spirit. What is it you crave? What are those longings you find satisfied in those sacred spaces? Then, we get to the HOW. When we move beyond the WHAT and the WHERE, we find that the HOW is the posture of our hearts. The HOW is what we do to create space within and around us for God to come and meet the cravings of our soul.
As I realized what my WHY and HOW were, I was ecstatic to find that I had the freedom to create more sacred space in my everyday life than I ever thought possible. Those cravings of the soul were never meant to just be satisfied or seen on one place on a map! What makes a sacred space just that, is our expectation and decision to make room for being filled! Who could use a little more of that? I know I’m not the only one. I just don’t buy it anymore that God meant for us all to live in maintenance mode...moving from vacation to retreat to escape, the only times of the year when we feel fulfilled. Jesus said, I have come to give you life, and life ABUNDANTLY! (John 10:10) As our real Enemy seeks to distract, destroy, and discourage us everyday, we must believe the words of Jesus and adamantly fight for abundant life! Not only that, but God promises that as we make room for him to show up, speak, fill, and be with us...he will. Every. Time. (Jeremiah 29:13-14)
Now don’t get me wrong, I think getting away is important. There are inescapable elements of daily life that can wear on us, and retreats can be contrastingly refreshing and joyful. Seeing a new place is exciting, and I love to travel. I’m simply suggesting that maybe, just maybe...the desperate need to get away can be acknowledged and dealt with right here, right now!
I want to live my life like I believe in this Jesus promise of abundance, and that means increasing the sacred space in the every day. You with me? Here are some practical ways to do it:
How to Increase Sacred Space in the Every Day:
Look up. I am convinced, now more than ever, that one of the only ways we can be present in our daily lives is to put our phones away. Repeat after me: PUT. IT. DOWN. You don’t need an inside look into every celebrity, friend, and stranger’s life. That stuff is NOT good for you. You don’t need to publish everything on your mind. You don’t need to know to be important. Look up, live a moment or a day without it.
Invite, expect, and appreciate. Alright, I cheated and did three in one...but that is because they’re all meant to happen in the same breath. It is my firm belief that the happiest people are the ones who appreciate more than they expect. Listen, I have expectations...too many, so I’m learning that sacred space involves a healthy measure of invitation, appreciation and expectation. I don’t think “Expect nothing and appreciate everything” is a Pinterest quote we should live by. Invite God to meet you, expect him to keep his promise, AND appreciate when he does.
Remember the Common Denominators. Sacred space...where God meets and speaks to you does not have to look like one thing...as I’ve said, it is less about what’s happening in the exterior and more about the interior. Yet I do believe posture matters, and we can do that in an intentional way that feels true to us. For me, that can include putting some classical music on, lighting a candle, opening a window, cooking in my kitchen, painting on the floor, or taking a bath. The common denominators of sacred space give us insight into what needs to stay and go for us to be really present in a moment.
Let it out. Once I’ve postured myself, I let it out with the Lord. I pray, seek, plead, listen, praise, and breathe. It’s there, I learn where I am really at, and what longings live within me.
Don’t rush. One of the beauties of existing in sacred space is that it isn’t a pit stop, it is THE stop. Steward your time well, live your life responsibly, but when creating sacred space...be all there. Don’t think about what comes after or if you’re doing it right. Don’t time it or rush it...simply enjoy it.
Keep it going. One of quickest ways to disrupt the heart of sacred space is to immediately get on Snapchat or check your email. C’mon people! As we have been seen, known, and met...let’s bring that same posture into whatever is next.