Sacred Spaces in Unlikely Places
“[T]hen [God] said ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’”
What is sacred? According to Merriam-Webster, sacred is an adjective which can mean (among other things): (1) dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; (2) worthy of religious veneration, holy; (3) of or relating to religion. As you can see, key themes such as religion, holiness, worship, and deity all repeat themselves.
What is a space? It’s easy to think of space as a three-dimensional area in a room, but think about terms like public space, private space, personal space, social space, and finally, sacred space, to understand how the word “space” can really be loaded with meaning in our lives. All it takes is one little change, one slightly different way of looking at the word, to make all the difference.
A sacred space is a location where we can commune with the Divine. Moses encountered a sacred space in an unlikely place: a burning bush that was aflame yet not consumed by the fire. It is this passage in Exodus above that opened and inspired this entry. It was in this sacred space where Moses first encountered God and received his calling. Interestingly enough, Moses’ time with God focused more on listening (and, much to my delight, doubting) than speaking.
During our small group meeting last week, we discussed the idea of creating an altar in our homes for a sacred space, followed by a guided meditation. During the meditation, we were asked to consider the spaces that we live in and see if there was anywhere that we could place a sacred space. As I mentally rifled through my home I finally came upon a place where I too could commune with the Divine.
In my tiny glorified studio of an apartment, my sacred space is across from my bed, in an area that has been pretty under-furnished for the last six months. Coming soon is a little table with some items that help me feel closer to God: candles, a picture of my mother, certain notes of encouragement, etc. Although my spiritual practice is inward, this outward demonstration of it may require an uncomfortable conversation or two to explain to others. It is in this mixture of dedicated private, public, and sacred space that I am able to not just talk to God, but listen for the voice of God.
One thing I have learned, however, in creating this sacred space is that it isn’t just a physical location. Sacred space is indeed a condition of the heart. Creating a space in my being is part of the equation as well. With a sacred space that I can carry around wherever I go, I can have “sacred space” in some of the most unlikely places: stuck in traffic on the Kennedy, sitting on the bus or the train, running down the lakefront path, or whittling away on the keyboard at my desk. No place feels too off-limits to have conversations with God.
Editor’s note: this piece was previously featured on another blog project I worked on at Holy Covenant UMC in Chicago, Illinois. During that year my Lenten focus was on prayer. If you’d like to get involved as a contributor for COTV’s Lenten Blogs, please feel free to contact me (Carlos) at firstname.lastname@example.org