The idea of “white space” may have had its origin in the field of publishing and design, but it has become a metaphor in other disciplines, including the Christ following way of life. In design work (think newspaper, magazine or website) white space is the portion of the page left unmarked. It’s the margin or the space between columns and pictures that gives your eye an opportunity to rest.
The business world took white space on as a metaphor, and talks about it as opportunity – that place “where no one is in charge”, leaving room for creativity and passion to emerge. Businesses that give their employees a certain amount of white space often find them more engaged and energized in their work.
In the Christ following way of life, the notion of white space is used in both of the above understandings. As one blogger puts it, white space is “a place for my heart to breathe.” This understanding is akin to Sabbath space, or space for rest, play, worship and renewal. When we see Jesus going off by himself to pray in the gospels, he’s making use of white space.
Another ministry blog, however, talks about white space as a congregation’s “learning to value the things God cares about and stop caring so much about things of little value to God.” Here the author is picking up more on the idea of space where we act on passion and leave room for creativity to emerge and bubble up in our lives, and in our shared ministry; verses going through the motions of tired and ineffective traditions and expectations.
Both understandings of white space are needed and welcome today as we share the Christ following way of life. Individual Christ followers need space in their day and week to rest and be renewed in the presence of Jesus. We need some margin that gives our spirit and heart room to breathe. We need to unplug from our schedules of production and culture of frenetic stimulation so that we give ourselves opportunity to rest. This may look differently for different people. For me it often translates to taking a walk, getting out on my road bike, working in the garden, a long conversation with family, or settling in with a good book. What’s does it look like for you? Can you describe your white space?
As the Body of Christ, local faith communities need to build white space into how they experience life together. Such space will allow for reflection – listening and responding to the creativity and passions God has equipped us with in this life together. This means embracing periods of time and space where there is no “program” or “agenda” other than gathering for worship and community. It’s the intentional design, or setting aside, of time and space to allow the imagination of God’s people to emerge and come forth.
Where, how and how often is the faith community you worship and serve with making time and space for white space? What benefits have you seen coming for this space? Traditionally the summer season has offered this kind of space for churches and Christ followers. But more recently we’ve come to understand our need to build these breaks into our life the calendar year round.
So, let me ask once again, where do you find white space on a regular basis? How do you make use of it? You and your faith will benefit from doing so.