white space for your soul


I’m a compulsively early person. About 20 minutes before I actually need to leave the house, I get the worst ants in my pants. I just can’t sit around anymore.

You’re supposed to arrive everywhere you go five minutes early to show respect for the time of the person or group you’re visiting. But 20? That’s just annoying.

But the cool thing about leaving 20 minutes early is that it forces space into your life. And space is something we all need more of.

In document design, “white space” is an important concept. Studies (ironically, this one features very little white space) have shown that a document with ample white space is not only more aesthetically pleasing (think your favorite style blog vs. your college biology textbook), it actually helps our brain process information better.

The same can be said for our mental and spiritual health. God calls us to do, yes, but also to rest and to think. We need white space.

I’m a scheduler. I have my plans for each day planned out on my Google Calendar and on the calendar whiteboard in my kitchen. When I’m not actively doing something, I’m still doing something. When we’re “watching TV,” I’m reading Twitter. When I’m “getting ready for bed,” I’m clearing away dishes and other junk that’s accumulated from the day. Shauna Niequist calls this “fake-resting” in Present Over Perfect.

I’m getting some things done, but I’m also forgetting about other more important things. The more we fill up our minds, the less room there is for God.

Some people suggest scheduling downtime — like, putting it in your planner or on your calendar. That doesn’t always work well for me, unless I leave my house and go to a coffee shop so I don’t get distracted by clutter. Instead, I find I get the most refreshing white space in downtime I’m not expecting — like those 20 minutes when I can’t help myself from arriving early. There’s something about the spontaneity.

As I wrote this, I was sitting outside a coffee shop waiting to go to lunch with a friend. It was a beautiful sunny day — one of those wonderful Texas fall days when the sunshine is warm but the breeze is just cool enough to justify wearing your new suede ankle boots. I had no laptop or book with me and my phone was almost dead (oops), so I was using an actual notebook and pen(!!). It was crisp and quiet and I could feel the white space restoring my soul.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard the literal voice of God, but after the initial OMG-what-am-I-going-to-do-for-20-minutes panic subsided, I felt him answer:

You don’t have to do anything. Just be.

Ladies and gents, take some time to just be today. It may only be a few minutes, but let that white space push out all your worries and busyness and fill up your soul.

Be — be with yourself, be with God, be creative, be silent.

Just be.

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