How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord of heavenly forces!
My very being longs, even yearns,
for the Lord’s courtyards.
My heart and my body
will rejoice out loud to the living God!
Yes, the sparrow too has found a home there;
the swallow has found herself a nest
where she can lay her young beside your altars,
Lord of heavenly forces, my king, my God!
Those who live in your house are happy;
they praise you constantly.
Those who put their strength in you are genuinely happy;
pilgrimage is in their hearts.
As they pass through the Baca Valley,
they make it a spring of water.
Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
until they see the supreme God in Zion.
Lord God of heavenly forces,
hear my prayer;
listen closely, Jacob’s God! Look at our shield, God;
pay close attention to the face of your anointed one!
Better is a single day in your courtyards
than a thousand days anywhere else!
I would prefer to stand outside the entrance of my God’s house
than live comfortably in the tents of the wicked!
The Lord is a sun and shield;
God is favor and glory.
The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold! —good things
to those who walk with integrity.
Lord of heavenly forces,
those who trust in you are genuinely happy! (Common English Bible)
I want to be where God is.
That works out quite well, since I believe God is everywhere, anyway.
Yet, there are those special sacred spaces for us, and holy places where we especially sense and perceive a connection with the divine.
That’s why the psalmist’s heart was set on the pilgrim’s way. He was longing for the chance to go to that sacred place of basking in spiritual grace.
I know the feeling. There are times when I begin itching to go to a particular place, a hermitage, which I try to get away to, at least once a year. In 2020, with the coronavirus raging, that didn’t happen. And now, this year, with so many current responsibilities, I’m not sure when it’s going to happen. Yet, happen it must.
Even though we don’t always have the opportunity in traveling to a sacred site, having small spaces set aside just for divine connection can make a real difference. After all, we don’t need to walk a thousand miles to a grand cathedral in order to meet that deep spiritual need. It could be as simple as walking a few steps to a special chair, perhaps with small rituals of lighting a candle or incense, playing contemplative music, and/or having objects, such as a cross, which enables us to enter that connection with God.
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”Joseph Campbell
Unhappiness can settle in rather quickly when we go for long stretches without a break, not properly attending to our spirit in special ways. Loneliness, and feeling as if no one understands, are normal responses when there is disconnection.
Unfortunately, we aren’t always aware of what’s happening within us. Then, all of a sudden, we wake up – as if having been in the lower deck of a boat – and discover we are in the middle of the sea, unable to see the land. The disconnection becomes palpable.
I strongly urge walking. It has more than physical benefits. The spirit also needs some movement to remain healthy and happy. Do a pilgrimage around your neighborhood of prayer walking, or purposely trying to notice things you’ve never seen before. If limited, do what you can. Even a stroll around the living room can have a therapeutic effect.
The point is to have a sense of God’s presence. For the psalmist, it was taking the journey to Jerusalem, ascending the temple mount, along with other worshipers, praying and singing along the way. It was about enjoying the process of getting to the temple, reveling in the experience of being in the temple, and descending the mount with a heartful of peaceful satisfaction – knowing that, deep down, everything is going to be okay because God is with me.
Just a single day in the sacred space is better than a thousand days elsewhere. I picture it something like enjoying those rare days when our girls and their families, with grandkids and dogs in tow, are with my wife and I for a meal. It doesn’t happen often. Yet, when it does, all the loud hubbub becomes sacred time. I take off my shoes because I realize I’m on holy ground.
Indeed, all of life is sacred and holy. And yet, those special times and places help us remember how sacred and holy life really is.
Just as good nutrition, hygiene, diet, and exercise are part of the continuum of care for the body, a personal sacred space for prayer, meditation and spiritual thought is part of the spiritual self-care that can enrich and support our practices of regular worship within a community of faith, as well as service to the world.
And we must never lose sight that the most sacred space we each have to maintain is our own heart, where the light and life of Christ resides. The fruit of the Spirit come from a humble life surrendered to God’s guidance and healing. That can happen as we visit sacred places and create sacred spaces in our lives.
Lord, let me dwell for a moment on your life-giving presence. I open my heart to you. I can tell you everything that troubles me. I know you care about all the concerns in my life. Teach me to live in the knowledge that you care for me today, will care for me tomorrow, and all the days of my life. Amen.