Space – the final frontier

Daniel, Brent, Andy, Chad, Merlin

Space has always been intriguing to us humans. What is out there we ask? However, outer space is not the only frontier yet to explore. We will leave the discussion of UFOs for another day.

Personal space is the final frontier we must explore if we are to pursue what it means to live in spiritual community.

We throw the word community around with great hopes but with limited awareness on why our reach exceeds our grasp. We are alone and feel lonely in our journeys of faith and there is a reason, my friends from Bangkok would say. My friend Sukit from Thailand made multiple observations about our life as Canadians. He noticed how big our homes are and how much personal space we all require as he went city to city. “Big, big, big” he often said. Sukit saw the need for personal space and family space as one of our defining traits. He commented on how we have to make appointments to see each other, how we are so polite towards each other’s personal space. “May I say something, Can I, Are you OK with, I am sorry “ are all sayings he realized we say over and over again. Words and concepts he seldom hears in his culture.

To the Thai, community is a way of life. The rich and poor, people of faith or no faith, single and married, they are all placed together, interwoven into sharing small spaces. Life is lived together and space is shared, even personal space. Community is not just a high value it is a way of life for them. They couldn’t imagine living with as much personal space as we require. Sukit said the amount of space we require would make them lonely and disconnected. They felt our loneliness and understood our dilemma…. Sukit said over and over again… ”Community would be so hard for you here.”

On a warm, sunny (27 degrees warm) Saturday afternoon in early October in Calgary (rare as UFO sightings) around 30 people willingly, without bribe, reward or pay came indoors to listen to Sukit and Amp share. As a highly skilled architect, Sukit reflected us back to ourselves, hoping we would see clearly in the mirror he erected. The question on whether authentic community was valid, valuable or biblical was not the issue in question. Sukit and Amp feel authentic community is a key to spiritual life, spiritual growth and discipleship. They should know they have seen over 1000 people respond to Jesus in their years working this out through a community lens in Bangkok. What was in question was how do you engage in community if you need so much personal space. As he led us to look in the mirror, he spoke these words to help us distinguish our faces. Not with the hopes of us feeling guilty but with the hopes of finding freedom.

“I am just wondering, he said. Could it be that you use all these words to respect each other’s space, not because you are respecting each other’s space but because you are protecting your own personal space.”

We all sat there stunned. He showed us ourselves in the mirror and then quickly pulled the mirror away, with his laughter, as our visceral response gave us away. Maybe he is right. Maybe we are not respecting people and their space but in a twisted sort of way we are a self-preserving people, protecting our own space in the disguise of respect. Sukit encouraged us to learn how to ‘invade’ one another’s personal space if we ever want to find our way to community as a lifestyle. Maybe we have to invade the space of our own hearts first. Especially if the truth that we would rather protect our personal space is the greatest obstacle to invading another’s space.

Let me take the Canadiana speak out and say more directly what I heard Sukit saying to us (my mother holds an American passport so I can talk this way legitimately). Personal space and family space is our culture’s idol and we hide behind it to protect ourselves.

Now doesn’t that statement make you as mad as it does me? Mad because it is partially true. Personal space the greatest nemesis of our journey to authentic and full community? What do you think?

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on October 8, 2010.

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