Looking for Rehoboth

Nature abhors a vacuum.

So does my calendar.

It seems like every time a space opens up – God bless canceled committee meetings! – something rushes in to fill it. I’d like to blame that on external forces around me beyond my control, which is funny because control is something I normally am not too keen to give up. In reality, I am the gatekeeper for my space, and I decide how it gets filled.

I recently came across a Bible story I had completely forgotten. In between the birth of his rascal-y twins and blessing the wrong son, Isaac has this encounter with Abimelech, the king of the Philistines. Isaac settles in the king’s territory but becomes too powerful, so the king asked Isaac to leave. In his new settlement, Isaac digs wells for water, but out of spite the envious Philistines in the area throw dirt into the wells to stop them up. After a couple of instances of quarreling over the wells, Isaac finally digs one the Philistines leave alone, so he names it “Rehoboth,” saying, “Now the Lord has made room for us.” The Message translates the name of the well as “Wide-Open Spaces.”

Wide open spaces. For me, those words are like smoked brisket to a hungry person. Life feels so crowded. I look at my calendar, which has every available inch covered with ink. I look at my spiritual life, into which I try to cram my to-do lists for God. I look at my typical day, which is overflowing with Facebook posts, podcasts, conversations with church members, activities with my family. Wide open spaces? Nope. Not around these parts.

In fairness, not all the things that fill my well are bad things. Many of them are not only good, they are necessary and life-giving. For example, I’m not going to create space in my life by neglecting my family or not watching “The Walking Dead” (OK, maybe not everything I do is life-giving). But if my wells are too full of mud to produce fresh springs of water, I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I choose what goes into my well, so I shouldn’t be surprised when I dip in my bucket and get a bunch of sludge and soundbites and “epic fail” videos instead of the deeper stuff I was seeking.

This was brought home to me in the book Pray Write Grow by Ed Cyzewski (available March 11). Cyzewski says we can have great intentions about becoming better writers or better prayers or better Christians, but unless we create space in our lives to work on that, those intentions will never move beyond that point. Cyzewski shares the example of giving up podcasts while walking in order to spend more time in prayer, and how that small practice had a seismic effect on his spiritual life and his writing.

But I like those dirt clods in my well! I like checking Facebook, I like getting emails, I like listening to music while I run or iwhile driving. Why? Because it’s easier to fill the well with mud than it is to face what else might come rushing in if I leave the space open for God to fill. It’s easier to deal with space-fillers I can control and that make me feel important (“my latest post has five likes!”) than to give up that space to God’s spirit, which might remind me that I’m not as important as I like to think I am or how I’m using my time isn’t quite in line with how God has called me to use my time.

Each day, each block on the calendar, is a well that has been dug for us. What’s in your well today? Muck and mud? Life-giving water? Is there still room, still some open space for God?

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