• First Presbyterian Church

Creating Courageous Space

Updated: May 23, 2019

by Tim Haworth

I don’t know if it is because I am an avid viewer of HGTV or what. It seems like the new buzzword in the home remodeling world is “space”. Instead of a big empty room we now have space. And the designers spend a lot of time talking about creating this or that type of space.

I’m a big fan of maintaining my “personal space”. However, with two dogs and two cats simultaneously fighting for lap time while I try to write a semi-coherent thought provoking blog, personal space is a fond memory. Luca the cocker spaniel has learned how to detach my IPad from the keyboard with one push of the paw. As the pad quickly flattens it becomes a lovely bed for him to stretch out across and receive the human adoration he thinks he deserves. The cats choose the lighter touch of stretching out across the keyboard, usually with my hands underneath.

Another space that I have occupied a great deal is church space. When you are the child of a lay leader and the grandson, nephew, great nephew, first and second cousin of preachers, your world is basically church space. It is your playground (you wouldn’t believe how many places there are to hide). At times it felt like a torture chamber when you are a hyperactive kid sitting on a wooden bench listening to a family member preach sermons that seemed endless while your grandma is trying to get you to sit still because the parishioners expected you to be the perfectly behaved child. No such luck.

As I grew older and started to settle down to the point where grandma no longer threatened to duct tape me to the pew, church space became familiar and comfortable. I came to appreciate the music, the singing and, as I matured, the whole idea of worship. I often sensed the presence of God. It was in that presence that I felt safe and protected. And given the things I was experiencing in my life outside the church, I needed that protection.

Now that I am older I recognize that it isn’t enough for my church space to just be a place where I am protected. I need more than just safety and protection from the outside world. There are times I need to emerge from a place of safety to boldly stand up to those who seek to harm others or me. Times I need to honestly and openly seek help from others to resolve problems and issues I face. I need my church to be a space that encourages and enables me to be courageous in the face of life’s challenges. I need church space to become courageous space.

Courageous space in the church offers healing, wholeness, honesty and even adventure. It is a place where people are allowed and encouraged to be vulnerable and open with one another and with God. In a courageous space we don’t hide our sins and shortcomings. We confess them to one another and receive love, forgiveness and support as we learn and grow through our mistakes. In a courageous space differences of opinion are met with earnest conversation and understanding rooted in respect and love for one another - especially when we don’t come to an agreement. In a courageous space we dare to dream dreams, be creative, set aside traditions that are binding us and develop new traditions that free us to meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

We need that courageous space outside the church as well. Jesus calls us to be light in a world that often prefers darkness. He asks us to speak the truth with love and boldness just as he did. But, Jesus also warns us that such truth telling, no matter how much it is wrapped in love, can lead to rejection, hatred and even persecution – just as it did for him. We are called to interact in the world with strength and courage knowing that God is ever at our side. God will never leave us or forsake us as we pursue our earthly assignments (Joshua 1:1-9).

The Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians to walk in that courageous space. Let us be brave enough to also accept that challenge.

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

48 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

Some believe that there are sins which are unforgivable. I do not believe this. I believe the Psalmist who writes in chapter 139, “Where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your prese