Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sacred Space

My friend Annie Jones (wonderful novelist!) told me a story about Fred Rogers last week (Yes, the "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" guy). Seems when Fred was in seminary and learning all about how to preach, he attended a small church and heard another man preach. The minister didn't follow the "how to preach" rules and the subject matter didn't inspire Fred. He sat in his pew and mentally tore the message apart . . . and then he noticed that the woman beside him was totally enthralled. "That's just what I needed to hear today," she whispered to Fred Rogers.

And Fred said that's when he realized the "space" between a minister (or writer or singer) and a listener (or reader) is sacred. From that day forward he promised to not insert himself into someone else's sacred space. He could celebrate the fact that someone, somewhere needed to hear that message.

When I was a music major in college, I was nearly ruined for church music. I couldn't listen to another singer or choir without noticing (and quietly cringing) every time I heard a note that was sharp or flat or a vibrato that went way out of control. The little I knew--and this is when intellect can become a dangerous thing--fostered a critical spirit within me.

And then I realized that all the joy of church music had vanished for me. To restore it, I had to learn to zip the lip of my inner critic . . . just as Fred Rogers did. I didn't know about the concept of "sacred space" back then, but I wish I had.

One of my friends told me about her son, who's an excellent musician. She quietly bemoaned the fact that he didn't enjoy playing in some of his school bands because they "weren't good enough." He wants to "save himself" for more professional groups. I suspect he will some day "change his tune."

Ah, how the Lord delights in humbling his children. If we don't humble ourselves, He will do what it takes to remind us that we are servants . . . for it's in service that true joy lies. And it's in the "sacred space" between author and reader, preacher and hearer, singer and listener, that the Spirit works.



Anonymous said...

Good word, Angie. I too often suck the life out of the words of eternal life with my criticism.

Tami said...

What a great reminder that though something doesn't speak to us, it may to someone else. As someone who seeks to touch others, it's quite freeing too. Knowing it's the Holy Spirit's job to take it in the "sacred space" takes the pressure off me. Thanks!

Erica Vetsch said...

I've been learning this recently too. For awhile, after reading a lot of 'how to' books on writing, they sheer joy of losing myself in a novel seemed to have escaped me. I was picking apart plot, characterization, grammar, motivations...I had become a waspish, critical reader. The joy of reading is coming back as I make a conscious effort to throttle that inner critic and lose myself in the story.