Jan Johnson

Wisbit - December 2013

Holy Space in Community

The idea of “holy space” between people came to when reading Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together a few years ago. If I’m irritated by you, I don’t start by speaking directly to you about it. First, I place that frustration in the “holy space” between us. Christ fills that holy space and acts as the mediator between you and me. So I talk to Christ about how and why you bother me. He often says interesting things to me, hinting that perhaps a past resentment has come back to haunt me or that I’m irritated because you are just like me. I say “hinting” because the holy space is a gentle place where Christ says to me exactly the right thing. We talk it out, sometimes for a while. I may or may not be led to speak to you about it. That will flow out of my conversation with Jesus in the holy space. In that place of safety, I have learned a little more about being open to whatever God would say to me. And mercifully, I have dumped my feelings on God, not on you.

In this way, God is able to direct me in my efforts to love people. I learn that loving a certain person doesn’t look like what I thought it would look like.

Also - and this has been more difficult to learn - I’m learning to let the criticism you offer me flow into the holy space. Otherwise, I immediately defend myself because I am, after all, probably right! Right? The holy space s l o w s all that down. First, I offer it humbly to Jesus. Maybe I add how much this criticism hurt. Or I need to leave it in the holy space so I can simmer down and become objective.  So then the criticism sits there in God’s hands and I say to the Spirit:  “Please tell me what I need to know.”

My experience is that the Spirit doesn’t tell me everything I truly need to know but as much as I can stand to hear in this moment, as much as my character can bear. Sometimes we have to talk about this more. Other times, I get it, absorb it and act on it. So all criticism - both content and tone - is filtered through God.

In this way, God builds community among us. The way we treat each other is filtered through Christ’s holy presence.

I’ve explored this and other ideas about community (including what it’s not though we think it is) in the third DVD, Redemptive Community and Its Disciplines, in a new DVD series, Spiritual Formation as Abiding. This third DVD is now available along with a full-color Participants Guide with Powerpoint slides (see above) for you to use on your own or to duplicate and use with a group. You can purchase it on disk or download it. This is a companion to 1. The Transformed Life  How Do People Change? and 2. Practicing the Presence of God.

My goal with this DVD series is to do what I can to help move people forward in their union with God and transformation into Christlikeness.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson



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