The other day I was rocking F so that he could take a “sleeping nap” and singing various Scripture choruses and hymns to him. As I did so I experienced that slight shift in which a mundane thing (singing your child to sleep) becomes an act of worship…and I started thinking about the importance of creating an atmosphere in ourselves and our homes that allows that shift to happen easily and frequently.
I have been interested in the notion of “sacred space” for a long time. I have visited sites like the Western Wall in Jerusalem and been struck by the way the stones themselves seem to be different, to reflect the use as a place of prayer for centuries and I have noticed the same thing in many places where people come together for collective, religious practice and experience.
I have also noticed that those families that have time and/or space set aside within the home for the observance of religious practice together tend to have lives that are shaped by their collective experience of the holy rather than simply tacking religious observance on to the rest of their weekly activities.
To some extent I believe that any space that we inhabit is a good space, and I certainly think that there should not be much (if any) divide between the sacred and the mundane if we are to be whole people but I also think that there is great value in setting aside times and seasons for particular observance (thus we follow the seasons of the Church Year) and in having particular spaces that we also set aside as sacred space.
Sacred space helps us in a couple of ways:
- It helps us to lay aside distractions. If we know that the space we are entering we are entering for a set purpose we are more easily able to focus on that purpose. How many of us menu plan while watching the doctor do a well-baby check-up? We may well plan a menu at other times but the doctor’s office and the appointment time are already dedicated to a specific purpose and we tend to focus on that to the exclusion of everything else.
- Sacred space helps us to stay honest. When we have a space set aside as a space to approach God we are reminded that we need to approach God. There was a reason that the Israelites were told to write the law on the doorposts of their homes- they (and we) need something that bridges the gap we perceive between physical and spiritual and reminds us that there is a reality beyond what we perceive in our physical bodies. Just as kneeling to pray reminds us that God is our king so having a visible reminder of the importance of the sacred reminds us that we need to interact with the sacred on a regular basis. We are too easily distracted by our own busyness and we need reminders that get our attention.
Additionally I think that the act of first purposing to create sacred space in our homes helps us to create a sacred space within ourselves. After all the most well designed space is not going to do much for us if we don’t have a corresponding attitude of wanting the sacred- it will just be a quaintly decorated space. We must have a space within our hearts that desires to touch and revel in the sacred and just as we sift through physical items to create that space in our homes so we must sift through our hearts to create prayerfully create that space within.
How do we do this? That’s a topic for another day and for discussion here in the Thursdays Are For Creating comment space.