I read, on most days, an on-line devotional called, “Stillspeaking Devotional” from the United Church of Christ. I like the name because it affirms that God is still speaking to us. We just need to listen. On April 20, the day’s devotion was titled, “The One Who Gives Us Room,” and the reflection was written by Talitha Arnold (author of Worship for Vital Congregations and senior Minister of United Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico).
The bible passage from Psalm 4: “You gave me room when I was in distress.”
“When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, a friend shared recently, one of the greatest gifts was the nurse in the oncologist’s office.”
“She had a great sense of humor, and she could make a cold, sterile examining room a place of warmth and even laughter,” my friend said. But even more than that, he continued, “she knew how to hold my mother’s anxiety.”
As the cancer progressed, he explained, “My mother got more and more scared—understandably. She kept asking the same questions over and over again. I knew it was the fear talking, but I was worn out. I’d reached the end of my own rope. I loved my mother deeply, but I couldn’t deal with one more question.”
But that nurse, he continued, “could listen to my mother ask the same thing a million times. It was like she had a big bowl,” he said as he stretched out his arms to demonstrate, “In which she could hold my mother’s fear—and my impatience.”
“If I experienced God in that hard time,” my friend concluded, “it was that nurse’s deep well of patience and grace. I thanked God every day for her. I still do.”
“You gave me room when I was in distress,” the ancient Psalmist writes. “You have put gladness in my heart…I will lie down and sleep in peace.”
Maybe the Psalmist knew someone like that oncology nurse. Perhaps we do, too.
In Hebrew the word for mercy is derived from the word for womb.
The womb is a safe space for the fetus to grow and develop – and that’s what our showing of mercy (compassion) to others should be like. We, like the oncologist nurse, should give the suffering person “safe space” – to grieve, to doubt, to heal, to grow, to find joy again. That oncologist nurse could listen and listen and listen to that mother’s anxiety. “She could listen to my mother ask the same thing a million times. It was like she had a big bowl—in which she could hold my mother’s fear—and my impatience.” She gave the woman a “safe pace” in which to struggle.
The small group which I belong to offers me and the other members a safe place where we can “share our struggles and victories, sorrows and joys, doubts and convictions without fear.” “We promise to keep everything said the group confidential outside the group.” This safe space is a wonderful gift.
Richard Mowe says care is about making room in our hearts, our lives, our spirit for the sufferings, the fears and the temptations of others so that we can be like our savior who throughout his life took upon himself the deepest issues and hurts and fears of the human condition.