The other day, someone at church shared with me a picture they felt the Lord gave them. The saw a well-tended beautiful orchard that was vast, sprawling over hillsides, and producing much fruit. What particularly caught the person’s attention was how well the orchard was organized: The trees were in rows, and with perfect space between each row.
The space between the rows, they said, was particularly significant. On the East Coast where they grew up, they explained fruit trees grow, but there is no space between the trees. The trees just crowd out one another and prevent growth, similar to what happens when a tree is not pruned properly: The production of fruit is inconsistent at best.
I want to reflect today upon the space in our lives. Space has an interesting quality. It is both nothing and something at the same time. On the surface it is useless, and yet it is indispensable. As one article on graphic design explains, “white space should not be considered merely “blank” space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all; the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition.” So it is also in God’s artwork, our lives.
[White] space should not be considered merely “blank” space — it is an important element of design which enables objects in it to exist at all. So it is also in God’s artwork, our very lives.
As my friend shared with me his vision, I realized for me that space is the time of waiting. During this season God has given to me some promises that are deeply personal, and He has encouraged me to set my heart on them coming to fulfillment. Space is the time between us, like Abraham, receiving the promise and having it come to fulfillment.
Space is not only a period of time but a quality in the human heart. My children and I were talking the other day about the tendency in revival worship services for us to fake our worship: To act as though we are excited even when we aren’t. Now I am a big proponent of breaking through barriers of discouragement and worry and other things in order to worship authentically. There is good in that form of intentional worship. But in whatever environment we find ourselves, there is a tendency to act as though we are full when in fact we are empty. We want to give the appearance of fruit when in fact we are presently in the space between.
My wife often quoted a saying about the twelve-step program: “Those who progress in this program are those willing to sit with their uncomfortable feelings and take them to God.” In other words, those who progress are those who learn to be comfortable with space. And this pertains to the spiritual life in Christ as a whole.
We are a tapestry of fruitfulness and space, but if we seek to fill the space with other things — fakeness, striving, addiction, escape, busyness and so forth — we end up affecting the fruit we now possess. We prevent future fruitfulness.
My encouragement to you and me this morning, this Labor Day weekend in the States, is to be comfortable with the space in your life. Allow God to meet you in that place. Rest in His presence; rest in His promise. God does not waste a single moment in our lives. In the space where nothing seems to be happening, God is reaching down to bring healing and to bring forth something beautiful.
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
3 thoughts on “White Space”
Great insights and I like your analogy, Patrick. When I teach guitar, I tell the students that the spaces are just as important as the notes. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of noise, no matter how good you are. Your post also made me think of the “Selah” in the psalms, which were meant to be contemplative interludes. Totally agree about the revival mentality. I once had someone tell me while the Toronto Blessing was going strong (meetings every night) that they “needed a rest from the Refreshing.” I just cracked up at the irony. I believe our life is best lived in the ebb and flow, like the four seasons. Every fall harvest needs a winter of rest. And then, when wintertime is over, the springtime comes, fresh and full of new life! 🙂
Thanks Mel, and love the music analogy. I am afraid my use of the example in revival culture may have come off as a critique of revival culture. Truth is, the tendency to fake our worship I find is pretty universal: It just looks different depending on one’s expectations of fruit.
One thing I particularly like about the revival culture is its recognition of the power and necessity of worship despite whatever negative feeling or circumstances faces us. In those times recognizing the space we find ourselves draws from the deep well of worship within us.
Wise words, as always, Patrick.