You Gave Me Room

Date: Apr 21, 2024
Speaker: Rev. Sarah Reed Jay

    You Gave Me Room
    Rev. Sarah Reed Jay
    Psalm 4
    John 10:11-15

    Did you ever have the opportunity to visit the home where your mom dad or grandparent grew up? In 2013, when my grandmother passed away, we were all together in St.
    Petersburg, FL, for her service, and we drove past the house where my mom and her two sisters were raised. My mom had often told us how tiny it was. One of the things I remember her talking about was the little bedroom she shared with her two sisters and how the space was carefully divided up among them. They each had a wall where their twin bed was, and on the fourth wall was a dresser with three drawers. They each had one drawer, and they each had one shelf in the hall linen closet. A red table stood in the middle of the room that they shared. Eventually, things just got too tight, and so my mom, the oldest, moved her bedroom out to the garage as a teenager. Sometimes, space comes at a premium, not only in bedrooms but in life. In families, siblings often fight to find the space for their individual personalities to shine. I went to high school with a pair of brothers the older brother was so seemingly perfect and good at everything from academics to athletics, that I always felt bad for the younger brother who had to live up to him.

    Quite often, we find ourselves needing room in matters of the spirit. Certain life events leave us needing space to grieve and time to heal. There are situations in which we might feel
    that we don’t have enough room to grow and develop. I learned last year that goldfish grow bigger or smaller based on the size of their tank – they will expand if they have the room to do so. Otherwise, they will stop growing and stay where they are. In our psalm this morning, the psalmist says to God, “You gave me room when I was in
    distress.” Other places in the Psalms talk about God bringing people into a “broad” place or a “spacious” place in times of trouble. What might it mean that God gave him room when he was in distress?

    Instead of being hemmed in or feeling trapped or having nowhere to turn, God, it sounds like, granted freedom and open doors, options, and time to regroup. Can you think of a time in your life when you were given a room? What type of room do we find ourselves needing? Room to heal, room to imagine, room to explore? You know, when I went to theological school, I had no intention of becoming a pastor – I hadn’t seen many women pastors in my life. I planned to serve in international missions until, in my second year, I had a required Field Education course as a Pastoral Intern in a local church…and, having that room to explore, I found my place.

    Room to think and wonder and room come to something in our own integrity? Room to fail (which is the same as room to try new things)? There is a song I Love by a singer named Martin Sexton, in which he describes the way that failure led him to discover his true gifts. The words say:

    Thank you failure
    For all those things I could not do
    So much of my life
    It's all I ever knew
    Thank you failure for the mighty music
    Change is in my heart
    You know the dreams that chose me
    You made the dreams that chose me
    Come true

    We know that children learn best when they are free to try and free to learn by making mistakes, but have loving adults to create safe parameters for that experimentation and constructive failure. Maybe we have needed a physical room, a safe place, to start fresh, to create? Room, as in time? Time to process, time to rethink, time to make sense of things, to get ready for what is next.

    When the psalmist was in distress, God gave him room. Psalm 4 also talks about a happiness that is not connected to material things. Verses 6 and 7 say:

    There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!”
    You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

    That “gladness in my heart” – a deep sense of well-being that can remain with us in difficult hours – for that is when we most need it – is what we invest in when we spend time nurturing our spiritual health, even in seasons of calm. Every year, on this day – the third Sunday of Easter – the wider church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday and reads this text from the gospel of John. When we think about who Jesus is and reflect upon ourselves in relationship to the Divine, the shepherd of love is a powerful image...and even a surprising one: that God, although infinite, isn’t distant, but relates to us by name and in love. And also, that God seeks our welfare, even to the point of self-risk.There is a certain peace, a certain joy, in knowing that one is beloved in this way.

    Psalm 4:8 says, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.” Like a child who sleeps so soundly in the strangest places – on the jostling subway or in a crowded restaurant or, like Ned the other day, on the exam table at the doctor’s office – they relax because they understand, deep within them, that someone else is on guard; they do not have to be watchful or anxious…we, too, hope to learn to live with similar confidence, similar freedom.

    Not a confidence that everything will go well – for it certainly doesn’t at many times – but a confidence that, come what may, we will be surrounded by the love of God, that the love of
    God will hold fast. Today, let us understand and meditate upon these promises about God’s character – that, even in the chaos of our human condition, God is not distant, God is not uncaring; God is shepherding, enfolding, loving.


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