Here is a brief story about a place I used to rent.
Looking back now I can say it was a quaint and cozy studio, but recalling the day I signed my lease I can also tell you I cried. I was moving from a spacious river-view tower apartment to some 300 square feet of old, dirty, direct-access-to-the-back-alley space. It was one of those house-turned-apartments that are often described as “full of character” or “charming”. Yeah, and from the looks of it plenty of people had been charmed right the heck out. To say it felt “lived-in” would have been polite.
Bums camped in the adjacent empty lot.
That’s not a joke.
But the point of this story is that this apartment had a dining nook. And that nook became sacred to me. You see, I had moved into this apartment based on some self-imposed lie that God required me to pay a sort of penance. For what, I really can’t recall but more or less I needed to serve time in the wilderness. You know, like Moses. And Israel. And. . .WHATEVER. I reasoned with myself at the time that this is clearly what God needed from me in order for me to be right with Him. In order for me to get to the promised land! So I gave up my reserved parking space and my garbage disposal and I cried and I moved into my wilderness.
But back to the nook. (I don’t think I need to tell you that GOD DIDN’T ASK ME TO MOVE TO ANY WILDERNESS. But He did use it. In fact, what I thought would be the most desolate time and place in my life turned out to be where God introduced me to my new family. They lived across the hall.) I don’t know if it was due to limited seating, or to the fact that this nook’s quaintness was about the only redeeming quality I originally found in the apartment, but I spent a fair amount of time in that nook. I read there, I prayed there, and if friends needed to vent that’s where we sat. This nook became my space with God. He talked to me there.
I’m not getting all black-woman-in-a-shack on you, and I’m admitting that God probably spoke to me in other locations as well during this time, but this nook took up residence in my life as a sanctuary. It was where the psalms became real to me for the first time. It was where I felt free to cry out for however long it took my tears to surrender or find peace. It was where I felt known by God. I mean, there was a space in my home. Where God spoke. TO ME.
Well. . .the point of this story is that I left that apartment and that nook a few years ago, and stop me before I exhaust my bible story references, but I’ve been looking back ever since. I literally took pictures of the nook before I moved out. (Complete with bible and candle props, I kid you not.) But this year week, as I’ve been struggling with God, or wanting to find the courage to, I’ve found myself not only questioning His goodness but His existence. I don’t always feel His presence like I once did. I don’t always feel known.
But tonight, as I was standing with my housemates in the space between the entryway and the living room, next to the stairs, next to our dirty shoes, I realized once again that God hasn’t lead me into the wilderness. And that any space where people are trying, haphazardly as we may, to love one another in the completely ordinary and often defeating trials of daily life is a space that should be called sacred. God doesn’t need a nook or any other meager temple. He’s using His own means to remind me that He speaks. Some times even in my home, to me.