Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

July 26, 2004

The Spacious Place

I ran into an old acquaintance recently, a guy I hadn't seen in a while. He's a troubled fellow, angry and cynical. He said, "So, are you still reading all the time?" Probably he had seen that I was carrying a book, and that's what prompted him to ask. He was just making conversation. "Oh, of course," I said, remembering that he too was an avid reader. He said, "It gets you out of yourself, doesn't it? It gets you our of your own little world. It's good for you that way." I said, "Yeah, I guess so."

A few days ago Jared at Mysterium Tremendum wrote that the Gospel was good news because, among other things, it promises "life outside of ourselves."

That really struck me. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 31, "The Lord has placed my feet in a spacious place." It reminds me of what my friend, Tom, said to me, explaining his depression: "It feels like the four walls are closing in on you and there's no way out." It reminds me of a TV commercial for a car, some big expensive SUV, where the car is cruising along on a vast flat expanse, no road at all, like the salt-flats, only wet and dark and glistening, and the driver is doing 360s and splashing up elegant slow-motion sprays of water.

Because the manufacturer of the car knew that vastness, open-ness, the broad place, that's part of an ancient dream, deep-seated, Biblical, emotional. A place without restrictions, a place to drive fast and wild in your incredibly expensive car. Elbow-room. Space. Wide-open places. The West. Freedom.

The Psalmist says, "You have set my feet in a spacious place." The Image recurs in Psalm 18, Psalm 31, and Psalm 118. In opposition to that are the images of confinement: the miry pit, the fowler's snare. The four walls that my friend speaks of.

It occurs to me that all of us long for the spacious place, and just as with every other longing, we often try to satisfy it in sinful ways. Many, with drugs. With money. With cinematic fantasies. Or with simple refusal to accept the ordinary limitations of life. "Don't fence me in," as the old song goes.

I'm going to be thinking about this for a while. I'm going to be blogging about it. About Life "outside ourselves," and about how the Kingdom of God is that spacious place. This is, for me, an investigation. A pondering. Come along with me, if you like, and we'll ponder together.


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