A number of years ago when I was in college, a few of us youth ministry majors went on a missions trip over spring break to the Czech Republic. While traveling we had to take our luggage everywhere, so we had to take all our luggage into this one upstairs restaurant and then back downstairs to our transportation. I don’t recall much but I do remember how a couple of us guys loaded our teams’ luggage into the elevator. I remember this because the elevator was the size of a closet. Needless to say with only one floor to travel the elevator broke halfway down. We were in there for hours before help arrived to break us free. Now you should know that I suffer from some mild form of claustrophobia. I dislike packed elevators; that moment when you’re at the gate waiting for the forty rows in front of you to finally get off the airplane, not sitting in the aisle seat or being stuffed in the back seat of a fifteen passenger van far away from the door. I need personal space. I need room. Needless to say being stuck in that tiny Czech elevator with three other guys and about twenty peoples’ luggage was a claustrophobic experience.
This phrase has recently been stuck in my heart, “make room”. Paul wants the Church in Corinth to accept him and his fellow missionary travelers. His message had been harsh, he had rebuked many in the church and there were people in the church poisoning Paul’s name. Even though Paul cared greatly for this flock he knew he would potentially not be welcomed with wide open arms. He knew he had to defend his ministry and right some misconceptions before his arrival. He needed the church to make room for him. He needed the people in the church to make room for him in their hearts. How true that so often we need to make room for one another.
You know how when you have company coming over to stay you suddenly look around your house and see how dirty and cluttered it is? What might not bother you or your family during the normal routine is suddenly not acceptable when you’re about to have friends or family staying with you. You suddenly go into a furry to clean the house and remove the clutter. Sometimes you look around and you realize you have way more clutter and junk then you need. You realize it’s time to clean house and make more permanent room in your life. We as people tend to hoard. We tend to collect more than we can store. So many of us tend to hold onto junk way longer than we should. How much more do we hoard and hold onto far more emotional issues, problems and clutter than we ought to? It’s time to make some room in our own lives so that we can more effectively help and give grace to one another.
When you’re on a missions trip, whether it’s to the Czech Republic or to New Orleans, you often are cramped into small spaces, with no personal space to call your own. You’re outside of your comfort zone working long days and not getting enough food or sleep. It’s at times like this that it’s easy to become short sighted, have a short fuse and begin to become that grumpy person. It can seem like everyone else is in your way or doesn’t understand your problems. You don’t understand why they’re acting the way they are or why they won’t give you the grace that you desperately need. This doesn’t just happen on the missions field. Whenever you’re going through something difficult, uncomfortable or are hurting, you forget that other people have their own struggles, challenges and sufferings. Therefore I believe that’s the reason we all need to give each other more space. Whether that’s looking to see whose load you can make a little lighter with a smile, kind word or just some space or realizing that you need to give yourself some extra space. We all need an extra measure of grace. I believe that God wants each of us to be an instrument of His grace. It’s often so much easier to want or demand extra grace from others for ourselves then to go out of our way to give a little extra grace. Making room means to give grace. Making room means to forgive. Making room means remembering that others are sinful as well. Making room is recalling that God is doing work in their heart. Making room is opening up the floodgates of grace and love for one another. So let’s make a little room for ourselves and perhaps more importantly for one another.