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Cultivating Divine Spaciousness

Anna CAnna Costello Duran, Young Adult Ministerostello Duran,
Young Adult Minister
February 24, 2023

My previous workplace had a culture of urgency and busyness. Surrounded by exhausted coworkers, I was stuck in cycles of reactivity, leaving me feeling helpless, disconnected from my sense of agency, and wavering in my belief in God’s infinite power of healing. As burnout set in, I realized that this culture was preventing my creativity and my ability to build the kin-dom of beloved community that Jesus calls us towards.

As Lent begins, my personal goal mirrors my desire for others: divine spaciousness. When we cultivate spaciousness, we carve out sacred time to grow belief in our intrinsic worth and we expand the capacity for God to breathe change into our lives (Gn 2:7).

This week’s readings center around the concept of sin, which can constrict conversations into the good/bad binary and encourage judgment. But, if we take a deep breath and create some space, there are other possibilities. We can let go of blaming Eve for the world’s suffering (and let’s let go of the tropes about “crazy women” while we’re at it!), and replace shaming with empathy. Empathy means knowing deeply that we’re not alone. And we are definitely not alone! Our faith offers us beloved community, Jesus’s accompaniment, the Holy Spirit – consoler, the communion of saints, the list goes on! When we cultivate divine spaciousness, we open ourselves up to receiving gifts of companionship and allowing ourselves to be healed through spiritual connection.

What if, instead of blaming individuals for sin, we could recognize that we are born into sinful systems that disconnect us from God, ourselves, and each other? From racism to sexism, heteronormativity to economic oppression, the systems around us create hierarchies of human worth that benefit a select few while making us forget that we are all God’s children. Sinful systems perpetuate cycles of violence and convince us that we cannot be instruments of peace because we’re not enough; we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough power, and we’re helpless to create change in the face of injustice.

So, how can we create divine spaciousness during Lent when we’re lacking hope and feel like there’s not enough time? For me, it’s helpful to look for role models. My first source of inspiration is a friend who observes the Jewish sabbath for a full day each week, disconnecting from electronics in order to focus on “being” instead of “doing.” Another friend prays at least five times a day by literally removing herself from what she’s doing, rolling out her mat, and praying in an act of prostration. When I was young, my father would retreat to his garden on long summer days, leaving the answering machine to take calls until nightfall. In a nutshell: we have to cultivate our own version of “the desert.”

This likely means shifting our priorities. Are there boundaries we need to set for Lent in order to welcome divine spaciousness? What practices can we adopt to more fully trust in God’s time (kairos) and allow for the miraculous to unfold? Maybe we choose to fill our inner worlds with divine spaciousness through grieving, art, meditation, and/ or prayer. Maybe we turn our attention toward mindfulness, allowing ourselves to become aware of the wisdom that our bodies hold, and responding from a place of grounding. Maybe we cultivate sacred time for deep listening and accompaniment of others. And maybe, alongside cultivating spaciousness, we can begin to work to dismantle the sinful systems which prevent us from living as Jesus did.

In this week’s gospel reading, we are told that Jesus was only approached by the devil after he had survived 40 days and nights in the desert. He was hungry and seemingly at a breaking point but – can you believe it? – he never succumbed to helplessness (Mt 4:1-11). Since Jesus was human just as we are, he teaches us that we always have a choice to resist oppression; even when that choice feels inaccessible. Like Jesus, we are called to embrace practices that fill us with divine grace and allow us to shift our focus from resource scarcity to God’s abundance. Cultivating divine spaciousness is possible and, instead of restricting our time, it can introduce new possibilities that no amount of “doing” ever could.