I recently attended, at a local church, a gathering of artists that come together monthly to encourage one another and discuss art. The topic for this particular gathering was "Sacred Space." I am interested in the intersection of art and religion, and I looked forward to hearing the speaker and engaging the topic. It was a valuable discussion and encouraged me to continue thinking about what sacred space looks like in my life.
A few years ago I worked at a theater company/coffee shop ministry in a college town in northeast Iowa. The directors of the organization, a husband and wife team, daily challenged me to think more deeply about the arts. One topic on which they regularly challenged me was the pursuit of sacred moments, which for me became synonymous with sacred space. They taught me that every moment can and should be a sacred moment with God and those around me. Whether in the theater acting, in the coffee shop pulling shots of espresso, outside mowing the lawn, or inside doing my laundry, I had the opportunity to make every moment a sacred one. It was the realization that God is always with me, his Spirit lives within me, and every task can be an act of worship and co-creation with him. When I view every moment and task as a time of worship and co-creation, those moments becomes sacred moments. The spaces in which I am become sacred spaces.
Last year I traveled to Haiti to visually capture the stories of the people who had been so deeply impacted by the earthquake earlier in the year. All around me I saw devastation and need. People were struggling to survive. It was hot, the air quality was terrible, and things were uncomfortable. And to top it off for me personally, I was as sick as a dog. It was hardly a location that most people would view as sacred. Many people, when thinking of sacred space, envision a quiet, peaceful place in which to create their art. They envision a place of "beauty" that stimulates all of their creativity. They don't picture Port-au-Prince, Haiti. However, Haiti was a sacred space for me because I knew that God was with me. His Spirit was inside of me. And despite the surface-level difficulties of working in Haiti, I was able to work with an attitude of worship and co-creation with God as I captured, through photography, the stories of the people with whom I came into contact.
There is something to be said for having a quiet, peaceful spot in which to create, think, reflect, and find refreshment. I love finding those places. They are healing to me in the midst of an oftentimes hectic and stressful world. However, far more important than the physical environment in which I find myself, is the heart and attitude that I bring to any situation or environment. My external environment can be difficult and stressful, but internally I find a place of quiet and peace as I co-create with God. That is my sacred space. That drives every moment to become sacred, regardless of what my environment looks like on the surface. Am I always successful at allowing every moment and space to become sacred? Hardly. I often fail miserably at bringing the right heart and attitude to my life. I'm working at it, however. And I'm thankful that I am not alone in the process. God is continuing to shape my heart and attitude toward the varied aspects of my life. He is helping me to approach every moment and space as sacred. Also, I have wonderful people in my life who challenge and encourage me to keep the right heart and attitude toward my life and my art. A sacred space isn't merely the physical location. It isn't merely what can be seen on the surface. It begins in the heart, the attitude, the realization that every moment can be a sacred moment and space of co-creation with God.