One of the things I do at my church is help decorate the sanctuary and altar for the different services and events; the team used to be called Sacred Space, which I think is appropriate. I love this work, Reader—not only does it let my inner creative provocateur out to play, it also taps in to my genuine love of calendric recognition (seriously, I have a color-coded wheel of the liturgical seasons saved on my computer) and it gives me a place to celebrate the space we’ve built for God to call home. I have a thing for physical spaces, especially churches, which I might explain some day, but for now I love working with altar decor because it allows for a totally different kind of worship for me.
The thing is, though, that we may have built four hundred and seven bajillion churches for God to call home, but He is not only in those. The sanctuary is indeed a sacred space, but so is my living room, the post office, and that park by the stoplight where the crabapples bloom every May. Space is sacred because it is a meeting place with God, and God is everywhere.
I’ve really been wrestling with this concept this week, because I feel like my life is continuing to split into the sacred and the secular, the desired and the burdensome. I am tired in a way I can’t justify, tired in the most dangerous sense because some of it is apathy, and yet most of it is caring too much for things I need to let go of. (How’s that for clarity?) I have so many opportunities and possibilities opening up for me, and yet I continue to create these divisions of what belongs where, which places are okay for me to be who I’m becoming and which places I need to hang on to my old self.
I know this separation isn’t true. I know that God is in my work and my classes every bit as much as He’s at church and in my living room. It has been a fervent prayer this week to recognize this—to find the Godliness of the classroom, of the office, of the art museum where I had to present. Those places are also sacred, because they are also meeting points—they can be those thin places where the Divine waits for us, for me, if only I’d lift my head a little out of my own frustration. God is there when a student says he loves my class. God is there when I can make a coworker laugh on a Monday. God is there when I finally understand, however briefly, a concept that’s been eluding me all semester. God is there when my boss truthfully compliments me on how much I’ve grown in this job.
None of this means that these are places I’m meant to stay, or even that they are always pleasant. Sometimes my students are morons, my boss is a control freak, and Latin beats me up and takes my lunch money. Sometimes the utter dullness of concrete walls makes me want to scream, but these are not all times, and it is in the seeking after that place of connection with God that my cubicle becomes sacred. It is in taking the time to have that surprising conversation about faith in academics, in looking my students in the eye and listening even when they ask the questions that seemed obvious the first six times I answered them, that the classroom becomes sacred. It is in refusing to allow myself to keep God in a box, a building, a room with a cross that the university becomes church, and I realize that there are so many altars in the world.
I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through all that’s coming up next week–I’m running on God power and a thin possibility of amazingness gently orchestrated by Interpreter at this point, and I don’t even know how to recharge anymore. But if I remember, each day, that this space—wherever “this space” may be—also has God in it, that’s something. If nothing else, it engenders respect for that place, and nudges open the door of worship on a day other than Sunday. That is sacred, indeed.
Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me: let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy; and upon the harp will I praise thee, O God, my God. (Psalm 43:3-4, ASV)