Holding a Space

by Marjorie George

The community swimming pool in our neighborhood is located right next to the entrance to the subdivision, so I pass it on a regular basis. It looks a little sad these days with no activity in it or around it – just sitting there filled with water, surrounded by a cement deck, a little grove of trees sheltering a picnic area adjacent to the pool.

But in my mind I can superimpose another image over the emptiness — summer days with kids and families enjoying themselves, chatting with neighbors, lifeguards yelling at kids to “stop running,” teenage girls lying in lounge chairs getting some sun, middle-school boys doing cannon balls off the diving board.

Our house is only a block from the pool, so I can hear the laughing and hollering and lifeguard whistles from my backyard during the summer. I recollect – bring back again – images of my own kids in that mix and now their kids, too.

The pool is unemotionally waiting for all of that – holding a physical space for what is to come. Artists, I think, and writers, too, (perhaps other professions as well) are accustomed to the concept of “holding a space.” A blank canvas, a blank page. Knowing that something, some idea, is brewing but is not ready to be birthed. An awareness that there is something more that has not yet taken concrete shape.

It is well if one can wait, but one (this one, anyway) is not so good at that. In life circumstances, I am more apt to see a problem, define it, and then examine the possible solutions that my little mind produces. Problem A has possible solutions of B, C, or D. Those are the choices.

But what if there is another choice that has not yet occurred to me? Can I allow for that possibility – can I “hold a space” for an as-yet unimagined possibility?

The mystics of earlier centuries spoke of the journey of coming to a place of “unknowing.” The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing has this advice: “Forget what you know. Forget everything God made and everybody who exists and everything that’s going on in the world. . . Let them be. For the moment don’t care about anything” (pg 11).

When we dump into that space of future possibilities our pre-conceived notions, our demands, our rights, our entitlements, our puny little solutions, are we not crowding out any input from God? Paul says that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Perhaps I need to silence my own yapping and open my eyes and ears to this abundance with which God would like to bless me if only he could get a word in edgewise.

God is not asking for your help, says the author of The Cloud of Unknowing. “He’s asking for you. He wants you to lock your eyes on him and leave him alone to work in you. Your part is to protect the door and windows, keeping out intruders and flies” (pg 10).

I am grateful for the hours of delight my family has enjoyed at our local swimming pool. I just giggle when I take my grandkids to the pool where their Mommy and Daddy used to play. But I am even more grateful for the lesson of the empty, waiting pool that God has pretty much placed at my doorstep. I think I will walk down there today, throw a bunch of problems into it, and watch them sink to the bottom. After all, what do I know?

Marjorie George

Marjorie is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or comment below.

6 thoughts on “Holding a Space”

  1. Marjorie, This really spoke to me and I have reread it many times this week. I needed this and I need to go there to the place of “unknowing” Thank you so much, Helen

  2. Marjorie, Thanks so much for this post. We are having a Community of Hope class at St. Francis, and next week is Worship, meditation, and prayer. I’ll share this with the class.

  3. I love that image, Marjorie. I know that pool – my son was a lifeguard there nearly 20 years ago…

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