Some of you are wondering what white space is. Just pause for a moment. I’ll tell you in a minute. Though, that’s the problem right there. We don’t know how to pause.
Just be a passenger in a car for longer than five minutes and you’ll see impatience.
Just sit at a computer and wait for a video to load and you’ll see frustration.
Just respond to an email that suddenly deletes on you and you’ll feel hard done by.
Just stand at a kettle or a toaster or a microwave and see how long before you’re sick of waiting.
Just spend a chaotic day with three children in the Brookshaw household and you’ll begin to feel the need for what is called, ‘White space.’
Emotional and Mental White Space
Juliet Funt, who spoke at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit highlighted our culture’s obsession with busyness. She says, ‘We wear it as a badge of honour.’ Picture four people sitting at a work meeting, and before long everyone is comparing how busy they are to the person next to them. Whoever is busiest wins.
Juliet spends her time consulting businesses and workplaces to rethink their obsession with busyness. I mean, being busy doesn’t equal effectiveness anyway. Many of us don’t need to work harder, but smarter. Productivity is not achieved merely by condensing your email inbox and getting through your saved phone messages.
White space is taking a strategic pause in between activities. That’s simply the art of creating white space. It may be thirty seconds before the next meeting, or it might be a short walk during your lunch break.
Author Mike Myatt says that busy people need white space in their day. They need to pause. ‘[People who do this] relish their solitude because it gives them the ability to be alone with their thoughts, to challenge their logic, to refine their theories, and to test the boundaries of their intellect.’
White space therefore develops emotional resilience. White space renews mental pressure.
Spiritual White Space
I felt challenged the other day. A good friend of mine said, ‘Pete, you’re working hard, but you need to rest.’ Luke chapter ten, verses thirty-eight to forty-two highlight an often-used passage about two women, named Mary and Martha. Jesus was welcomed into Martha’s house, and while Martha was frantically trying to finish all the preparations for their guest, Martha’s sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening. After questioning Jesus regarding Mary’s lack of support, Jesus said, ‘Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things….Mary has chosen what is better.’
Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, fully attentive to him. She had paused. Stopped. She took a deep breath. She was listening to Jesus.
I’m labelling that as finding some ‘spiritual white space’. Without it you’ll slowly curl up into a tired, bitter and resentful Christian whose entire modus operandi is to convince everyone that your busyness is a form of Godliness. I don’t think Jesus was impressed by how much people did, but the heart in which they did it.
In my own spiritual journey I want to not only go wider, but deeper. That is, there is a balance between making a difference to a broken and hurting world and recharging my own soul in the process.
For the sake of the longevity of serving God in the world, I need more moments of white space. I’m sick and tired of trying to impress people with my ‘hard work’ or my ‘long hours’. And to be honest, the people I respect most are the ones that look me in the eye and say, ‘Pete, how’s your soul? Are you looking after yourself?’
You can take your ministry or work wider, but if you don’t go deeper at the same time you run the risk of burning out.
You have to get some white space into your day.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
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