When God Held Space


sheli massie - when god held space-3By Sheli Massie | Twitter

[Trigger Warning: Description of Suicide Attempt and Eating Disorder]

In therapy “holding space” is described as walking alongside someone without judging or trying to fix anything, just hearing and being fully present in the moment. It means to offer unconditional support and letting go of our judgment and control no matter the outcome.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I know my way around a therapist’s office. I was the angsty teen told that her broken needed to be fixed. I reluctantly sat on many a therapist’s couch to hear all the ways I needed to change.

And here I am at 43 and again in therapy. Six months ago I decided the trauma was embedded into who I was. It felt like I woke up drowning every morning and was terrified to close my eyes at night. I was in fight-or-flight mode and it was exhausting. I drove thirty minutes to a smaller grocery store that was quieter and had less chance of running into anyone I knew or thought they knew our story. There was also a chance I would end up with fresh flowers in my basket since the cashier felt terrible for me, because I was always crying.

A friend reached out and mentioned a new therapeutic office specializing in trauma. I met with a therapist two weeks later.

We sat in a garden just outside of her office that first afternoon. She had the wrong set of keys and couldn’t get into the building. But a simple mishap turned into a whisper of God. With the sun warming my face, I began to tell her the story of the past two years of our lives. When I finished, I realized she wasn’t speaking. She wasn’t keeping notes or letting me know all the mistakes she had noticed. She just sat there quietly with tears running down her face. She had entered into my suffering.

She held space.

I wonder if this is what God does. Has done. Will continue to do. Hold space.
I wonder if this is what God is teaching us to do. And where we have missed the mark.

When I was 21, the church bells of the college I attended rang the shame as the ambulance took me from campus that morning. My roommate had found me unconscious on the bathroom floor again. And as they pumped my stomach in the middle of an Indiana hospital that cold winter morning, I remember thinking how lonely skinny feels. What exercise and purging could not do, these thirty pills would make me whole again.

The amount of shame that wraps itself around that small story in my life can be suffocating. In fact, it was one of the stories, I told my therapist, where God was silent. Where I felt like who God says He is didn’t measure up because of how those I loved reacted to one of my darkest moments.

Recently my therapist asked me to tell her the story of that morning. To tell her the details I recalled and the things I remembered about the emergency room. What it felt like to be naked and covered with charcoal and shame.

She then asked me to hold space in that moment. To hold space without judgment or condemnation. To be fully present and ask Jesus to enter that emergency room.

I quietly started to cry as I stilled my thoughts and asked God to enter into that moment.

I held space to see Jesus’ face.

“Tell me what He is doing,” she said.

Through heaving sobs, I whispered, “Jesus is lying next to me. Holding me. Cradling me in his arms.”

I don’t think I was supposed to see Jesus that cold winter morning 22 years ago. God was there, but I think God waited. God held space until I was able to see Jesus’ face clearly. To understand that Jesus comes without judgment or shame. He lays himself down.

I believe this is what God is trying to teach us all. To hold space for each other.

What would it look like to hold space for families pressing into the pain of deep loss? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space for your neighbors who are divorcing after 15 years? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space in our communities that seem to be more detached than connected? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space for our teenagers aching to be heard in the silence? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space to heal conflict between friends? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space for churches to change from performance centers to centers of holy listening again? Lay yourself down.

What would it look like to hold space for those marginalized waiting to be welcomed in? Lay yourself down.

We all have an opportunity to hold space. It is one of the holiest and most sacred things we can do for each other. Jesus teaches us quietly that this is what He is doing for us every day. He enters into the suffering and waits. He doesn’t try to fix it or offer advice, He holds enough space, so that one day we are able to see His face in it all.


View More: https://thesiegers.pass.us/massiefamAbout Sheli:

Sheli Massie is a story keeper, seeker of justice, healing and hope in a broken world. She believes in longer tables, unlocked doors and living a barefoot life. She and her husband live outside of Chicago with their five children and one grandlove. You can find her over on Instagram @shelimassie, Redbud Writers, Facebook, Twitter and  her website.