Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sanctifying Spaces

All is yellow. All is wet. These alternating truths can only mean one thing: spring has arrived.

It's the time of year when lawnmowers and weed-eaters emerge from their hibernation, ready to feast on winter weeds unwelcome in the newly green grass. There is work to do in the world just outside our doors, and the song of spring beckons us to begin.

There is something sacred to me in all of this cutting and cultivating that happens when things once again begin to grow each year. It reminds me of the relationship I have to this place where I live. Most days, I drive my vehicle right into its midst, step out onto the paved driveway, and am indoors within a matter of a few steps. I have barely breathed the air. But now my feet are once again on the grass. My hands are once again in the earth. I am now in the sunlight, and now in the shade of the trees with which I share this space. My task is to care for it all, to do what I can to make it beautiful.

A couple of houses in my neighborhood have been abandoned. I do not have to knock on the door to see that no one lives there. I have only to look at the land. Weeds spread. Vines climb. Pavement cracks. There has been no one there to fight the curse.

One of the places that has become sacred to me is the Abbey of Gethsemani, a monastery tucked away in the rolling hills of Kentucky. For nearly a decade or so, it has been for me a place of spiritual retreat, a place to simply be with God in the stillness and silence of a community of prayer. One of the things I love about Gethsemani is that it is beautiful. It's not just beautiful the way a mountain or a waterfall is beautiful. There is that sort of natural beauty, but mostly I think the place is beautiful because the monks who have been living there for the last 150 years have loved it and cared for it and sanctified it for God. It's the sort of beauty that is tangible; you can feel it while you're there, and you carry it with you when you leave.  The monks of Gethsemani, without saying a word, have often caused me to consider my relationship to the space where God has placed me.

The following is a journal entry I wrote while at Gethsemani on Wednesday, March 5, 2008:

When I first arrived here on Monday, I was just a smidge nervous even though I've been here several times before. I walked carefully everywhere so as not to make a sound. Even the air seemed holy. Now it's Wednesday, and I have become more comfortable. I began to think, "What is it that makes this place sacred? This land could have been used for anything. There are houses just up the road from here that just seem like ordinary houses, but this place is special. Why?" I think the answer is not the land itself, but what it is used for. The use of this space is what sanctifies it. God sanctifies us, and we sanctify creation. How amazing. Perhaps sanctifying the space around us is part of our own sanctification. It is part of becoming more like the God who is patiently fashioning us in the image of His Son. 

I think about what implications this has for my home. How can the space we "own" be sanctified? God, help me to make our home a place of prayer, and in sanctifying my little space, may I draw closer to the God of my sanctification. 


  1. A nice read about a special place. I was there a few days ago. I always pause in from of the God Alone gate (my favorite for a picture)...After many visits to the Abbey, every visit is like a first visit--hard to explain...As Dr. Hinson always says, "there is the pull of Gethsemani once it happens to you." I have been so blessed to be there--...Thanks for your sharing....wayne

    1. Thanks, Wayne. It is a special place. I am thankful to you for recommending it to me years ago.