Confined by Increasing Space

by Lee Buford on December 6, 2010

Chances are you don’t think much about spacing in your daily walk through life. Most of us don’t. And that’s one of the reasons we’re so ineffective and separated from others.

Building relationships requires an investment in people, up close and personal. It also requires some degree of diminishing space. The internet allows us to communicate with others around the globe, but the space prohibits genuine community. We call each other friends and followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but when we need someone to help us move those aren’t the folks we’re calling. In fact, we probably don’t even have their phone numbers.

We like to walk into a restaurant and be seated an adequate distance from others (notice this the next time you walk into one). We choose a quiet table away from others in the coffee shop or library. We won’t park in the open space right beside other cars in the parking lot. And we won’t commit to faithful, engaged, regular attendance at a local church, small group Bible study, or service event. A little space feels better and seems to work just fine.

The fact of the matter is that lots of space serves our purposes well. We’re just not comfortable getting close to others, and we’re even less comfortable with others getting close to us.

There are some legitimate examples where space is desirable and warranted (ever had someone walk up to the stall beside you in a restroom when there were six more available, all NOT beside you?). Football and basketball teams work on spacing daily as a means to successful execution. Builders, decorators, and designers do the same. We even do it when we’re placing the cookies on the baking sheet so they don’t run together. Legitimate reasons for proper spacing abound.

But our discomfort with others getting close is a major deterrent to the quality of our relationships and the impact of our churches. We hang out with people we already know. They know our baggage and we know theirs. We don’t spend time out in public meeting folks or even hanging around with our neighbors. Who’s got time for that, right? There’s too much to do, and I can get it all done over here in my own private little world if you’ll just leave me alone and let me do so.

In our churches we spend far too much time hanging out with ourselves. Even then, we still don’t allow others to get too close (there’s too much accountability in that). But we love to put on the good Sunday show. We like other Christians, we really do, and that’s good on some levels. We should gather, study, pray, and worship together. But we’re never going to be the people God calls us to be if we don’t get comfortable with less space between ourselves and others. We’re not going to build transparent, God glorifying and disciple sanctifying bonds without letting others in. And we’re not going to do much to go make disciples and reach a lost and dying world if all we’re doing is hanging around a bunch of saved people.

Look for the useless space with the unproductive consequences in your life. Give up some space. Seek to diminish the gaps where you can. We must move closer to be closer, and we must be closer to impact and love one another.

Otherwise we’re all destined to fail due to the confinements of our increasing space.


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