The Spiritual Discipline of Spaciousness

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “The discipline of the Christian disciple is not to master anything, but rather to be mastered by the Spirit. True Christian discipline is the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ can transform us into his image.” (The Selfless Way of Christ, p. 70)

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would say “creating space for God” is the #1 spiritual discipline.  Without spaciousness we won’t fully receive all that God delights to deliver to us in the Scriptures, the beauty of creation, the joy of meaningful work, the delight of serving the needs of others, and the gift of friendship and community.

In this day of perpetual distraction, constant noise, unending activity, and interminable demands on our time, finding space for God alone feels nigh to impossible. We spend the vast majority of our waking moments in pursuit of lesser gods and their accompanying godless attachments. They may not appear at first blush to be damning for our souls, but in fact they become blatant hindrances to the vitality of our walk with God when they continuously supplant our much needed spaciousness with God. And, therefore, must be removed and more properly realigned around our priority for an intimate walk with God.

That’s why it’s “the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ can transform us into his image.” It’s effort. A discipline. One with great rewards.

Creating space for God opens us up to his renewing, restoring, and redeeming work in our souls. Without such space we will run ourselves ragged amidst the cacophony of sounds and endless activities that will preoccupy our hearts and keep us from a deep abiding in Jesus.

In the midst of a full day of ministry, Jesus invites his closest disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6: 31) So they “went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” A boat! What a great idea, Jesus! On a boat they were away from the crowds, it was quieter on the water, and the disciples could restfully attend to Jesus’ comforting words of love and the fellowship of their shared journey of faith.

Why a boat? Because the Lord wanted to give his friends a rest for their bodies, minds, and souls. And, his desire for his apprentices was for a deeper rest and trust. His invitation was to create and delight in the spaciousness of their moments together…

  • Unhindered by the clamoring demands of our world which lead us to be unhinged and separated from God
  • Uncluttered and free from doing, wanting, and having, and instead in pursuit of simply “being” a child of God
  • Unhurried and restful, with heightened attentiveness to seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard

On the heels of this time alone, they were fit for service from a rested and renewed space. As a result, they were invited into a significant task: to feed the five thousand. They did so with reclaimed affection for Christ and fervor for serving others in his name.

How spacious is your life today, dear friend? Consider how to declutter in order to find genuine rest for your souls. You’ll be glad you did.

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.