Room is such a vital part of the spiritual journey. Having room and making room are key to the health and well-being of the soul. It is like oxygen—the inner life simply can’t survive without it. Crowd it or block it or rush it and the soul starts to shrivel up and die. And it is such a slow death that most of us never even notice; we just wake up one day and our soul no longer has a pulse.
Which is such a danger and a challenge in a culture that prides itself in filling every inch of space on the page. We have no margins. Busyness and hurry have become our drug of choice, and we are now thoroughly addicted to them. Dallas Willard once said that in order to really grow and flourish in the spiritual life we must “ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” We must stop filling our lives so full of doing and actually start being. We must continually make time and space for God in order for our souls to grow and thrive and flourish.
Isaac and his family were living in the land of the Philistines and God was blessing them abundantly. (Gen. 26:12-22) Isaac had become very wealthy and had so many flocks and herds that the Philistines started to envy him. As a result, the Philistines stopped up all the wells that had been dug in the time of Isaac’s father Abraham, filling them with dirt.
Then Abimelech, king of the Philistines, came to Isaac and told him to move because he had become too rich and powerful. So Isaac and his family moved to the valley of Gerar, reopening the wells that the Philistines had filled with dirt, and giving them the same names his father had given them.
But every time Isaac’s servants reopened one of the old wells, the herdsmen of Gerar would quarrel with them, saying that the well was theirs. So Isaac and his family moved from well to well, with the same thing happening time after time. Finally they reached a spot where no one quarreled with them, so they settled there. And they called that place Rehoboth (which means room), saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” (Gen. 26:22)
You see, flourishing always requires room. It did for Isaac and his people and it does for us. Our lives get so full, our schedules so busy, and our hearts so crowded that our souls simply cannot breathe. We must make room for them to bloom and grow and flourish. Our souls require it, and they need us to make time and space for the Spirit to breathe his Divine breath of life into the depths of our being.
But we should not be surprised if we meet resistance along the way—both within us as well as around us. Our enemies have the same strategy as that of the Philistines, to try and clog our wells so that we have none of the life-giving water welling up from within us that Jesus talked about so often. And if they are successful, they can convince us that this living water simply does not exist, or at least not for us.
Thus, we end up “forsaking the spring of living water, and dig our own wells, broken wells that cannot hold water.” (Jer. 2:13) It is a subtly destructive lie, and one that leads us to a dry and desperate place. Only when we recognize that our wells are blocked, and, with God’s help, start to dig them out, can the waters of God’s life and Spirit begin to flow in and through us once again. But that is not an easy task, it takes effort. It takes us relentlessly making room for God to move and to act once again.
That is where the spiritual practices come in. As I have said numerous times before, they simply make space for God. They help give the Spirit room to unblock our wells and allow the living waters to begin flowing again.
Many of you have already read Jim Branch’s well-loved devotional, The Blue Book. The excerpt above is from one of his newest books, Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God’s Amazing Love.