Keep on the Sunny Side: Wide-Open Spaces



Back when I was in high school, there was a wildly popular band called “The Dixie Chicks.” I owned every formal album they produced and could sing all the lyrics to each of the songs on those albums.

“Wide-Open Spaces” was the mantra I mentally assigned to their music. “Wide-open spaces,” they sang, and “room to make [one’s] big mistakes.” There is so much freedom in wide-open space to make a mistake! Space itself is freedom.

I have never recognized that simple truth more deeply than after spending time with our Youth in Mission in Asheville, NC. We visited the AHope Community, supported Homeward Bound, and worshiped and gardened alongside The Haywood Street Congregation and its many, many volunteers. It was a life-changing experience.

We preachers often point to a very general message that the redemptive and reconciling love of Jesus Christ is for all, but many proof texts support this truth for the poor, especially Matthew 5. Jesus loved the poor. Jesus was himself poor— unlike Father Abraham. In fact, Jesus was a modern-day “couch surfer,” crashing at Peter’s in-laws’ home in Capernaum or wherever else he could grab a good night’s rest.

I have been conflicted with the Psalmists who penned Psalm 4, because of their certainty of God’s faithfulness to provide wide-open spaces. Very often, in Old Testament passages, a wide space, grand opening, or vast expanse was interpreted as freedom, and thus, redemption. All persons yearned for their own wide-open space.

As Christians, we believe God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, affords us the privileges of spiritual freedom that we may never fully understand in this life. We believe God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, opens for us a wide-open space of possibility, promise and opportunity for reconciling ministries.

Because of God’s love in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have the privilege to be in God’s presence regardless of our location, or even the state of our heart and mind. God does not judge, only welcomes and invites ALL to participate in life-changing love.

Working alongside many persons in transition and many experiencing homelessness this past week, I was beyond grateful for the wide-open spaces, where I meet family, where I feel secure, where I am privileged to rest in peace, and where I never question my self-worth as a Child of God.

My hope and prayer, in this and every publication, is that you stay on the Sunny Side of Life, recognize the many gifts you were afforded by God’s grace, adopt an attitude of gratitude, and remember the great faith of our Judeo-Christian ancestors, who paved the wilderness ways before us, knowing that we, too, might lose sight of the promised land, and the gifts of its wide, open space.

 


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