An Ode To Normal Spaces
Great things happen in great spaces. Or so I believed. So I laboured to build one. It wasn’t great, but it was good. I wonder if it will be good enough.
My Dad is a craftsman, who in between his craft taught in a classroom for 40 hours a week. My Dad had a great space. I think I would have loved to have been a craftsman; I would have modelled my workshop just like my Dad’s. But I’ve never been so good with my hands; the pieces just never seem to fit together just right. But I can craft words. Piece by piece, sentence and paragraph take shape, building something I hope will be great.
If only I had a great space to build these great things. But I don’t. All I have are normal spaces, the spaces where life happens, where marriage happens, where children happen. I have other normal spaces where griefs reside and sorrows linger. I have the spaces where dreams fade and disappointments bear fruit. Spaces for errands. Spaces for emails. Spaces for meetings. Normal spaces. Great things don’t happen in normal spaces. Or so I believed. So I put away my tools; I stopped making.
But what if I am wrong? Are great pieces of art only created in sunlit meadows? Can a masterpiece emerge from the valley of shadow? Should a craftsman sit idle for lack of great spaces? What if great things do happen in normal spaces?
Annie Dillard thinks so. Her memoir, A Writer’s Life, is filled with normal spaces; extraordinary art fashioned in ordinary spaces. I read her book thinking it a construction manual for creating great spaces, but it isn’t. She didn’t even reveal her secret for a perfectly crafted sentence. I thought I would be disappointed, but I’m not.
Why I thought it different, I’m not sure. Long ago I was startled to discover that God not only showed up in the normal spaces of life, but longed to fellowship with me there. For sure, mountain top experiences with God are great, but he is not only the God of mountain tops, he is the God of deep valleys too. I thought my best work would only ever happen in cabins on high places, not forged in torment through low lonely places. I’m slowly grasping, like finally noticing the bird that has been singing in my garden all morning, that the fruit of my life emerges in much the same way as the root grows. My foundations rest largely in the normal spaces of life, in the mundane routine of daily commutes and conversations, in the rhythms of relationships that ebb and flow around me, and the joys and sorrows of ministry. As grows the root, so grows the fruit.
Great things happen in normal spaces.