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

Steve is a graduate of Northwestern College (IA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.). His prior ministry includes serving on the pastoral staff at Grace Chapel (Lexington, MA) and as president of Vision New England. Since July 1, 2003 Steve has served as founder and president of Leadership Transformations, director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building, and adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Ministry department at Gordon-Conwell. He is the author of sixteen books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective),  Baker bestseller Becoming a Healthy Church, and Crafting a Rule of Life (IVP). He lives in the Boston area with his wife Ruth and is the proud father of two grown children, Rebekah and Nathan, daughter in-love Ashley, and papa to his beloved granddaughter, Brenna Lynn and twin grandsons, Aiden Joseph and Carson Stephen. “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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