My son and I went to the Carolina Renaissance Festival this weekend with some friends. It was incredible.
Of course, any time I get to pretend I’m a princess is incredible – that’s been true since I was two years old!
My child had a wonderful time too, but he did get kindly called out by one of the performers. There was a musical group – minstrels, troubadours, playing madrigals or sea shanties or something wonderfully period – and I started to clap along. But my child quickly shut me down. “No one else is clapping, Mom,” he whispered frantically as he laid his hands on mine.
At the end of the show, one of the musicians thanked the small crowd for our attention, and especially pointed out the lady in the back row who joined in the music with her clapping. He also spoke to my son, saying he hoped that next time her child wouldn’t stop her, but rather clap along. “After all,” he supposed, “Isn’t life better when we all join in?”
I love to join in. My 11-year-old self was more like my child, but I do remember noticing that my often bickering parents were at their happiest when they stopped fighting and joined in the polka dancing they loved. With 30+ more years of experience, I can say without a doubt that my life is better when I join in. And that’s never more true than with my spiritual life.
I have joined in God’s work in my life. I know that my spiritual life was happening even when I was frantically whispering “Stop!” and laying my tiny hands over the Spirit’s big ones. But I am all the more aware and happy about it now that I can clap along. When I stop and am still or when I listen carefully within the noise of this world, I can hear the Divine Music and it adds depth to all my interactions, all my being.
Many people are talking in schools, churches, and other organizations about creating safe space for people to express themselves and join in difficult conversations. In spiritual direction, we talk about creating a safe space for those we work with to be honest with themselves and with God. When you are 11-years-old, there are very few places that can feel safe enough to express yourself. Sometimes we get stuck developmentally at 11-years-old and nowhere feels safe enough to be called a safe space. There is no doubt that for many people trust is difficult to achieve.
However, at the recent spirituality and improv workshop I attended at Columbia Theological Seminary we did not stop at creating “safe space.” We asked each other to help create “brave space,” space where we could take chances even if it didn’t feel completely safe. We explored what it means to fail and learn anyway. We talked about taking “circus bows” – over-the-top exaggerated curtsies and bows when we clearly made a mistake because we were brave enough to try. These helped us laugh together and move on bravely again.
Perhaps my favorite quote from the whole workshop is “Faith is not about jumping from point A to point B. Faith is about jumping from point A.” We cannot know the end destination of our spiritual journey. Sometimes we don’t even know the next step on the path. But placing ourselves in ‘brave space” allows us to fully join in the traveling.
I never could fully join in until there was someone walking alongside me, my spiritual director, cheering me on when I made the next brave move. Often instead of someone helping me hold the brave space, I had people telling me to stop clapping while holding my hands down. The great news is that the Holy Spirit keeps offering me the freedom to clap. You have that freedom too. So be brave. Take the leap from point A. Clap along to the music that God is playing just for you.
What do you need to feel safe in a difficult conversation? How do you create safe space for others? Do you need “brave space” to dive into a deeper conversation with the Spirit? What would help you feel more brave? Do you feel differently about joining in or drawing attention to yourself than you did when you were a tween? Are you more or less likely to be the only one clapping now? Do you think the minstrel was right when he said that life is better when we all join in?
Whether you need safe space, brave space, or both, a spiritual director can be a big help as you explore a deeper relationship with the Divine. For more information check out Openings: Let the Spirit In.