Earlier this week was the anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ birth; he would have been 89.
I thought I had outgrown Mr. Rogers until I heard him again as an adult when he was the commencement speaker for a seminary graduation. He told a story that I now know he has told elsewhere, about the time he heard what he thought was the worst sermon ever, and the woman next to him turned to him to say the preacher had said just what she needed to hear.
He concluded then that “the space between us is holy ground,” which is something I’ve never forgotten – though I have forgotten to live it out more often than not.
But I was thinking about it again this week, seeing his birthday noted on some websites I frequent, and have a couple of thoughts that might pertain to those of us working with – well, anybody, actually, as we try to impart our knowledge and insights, or help others achieve their own.
First, we need to be secure in sharing the message we have, regardless of the eye-rolls coming our way. How different would Mr. Rogers have been had he kept trying to pursue children who had moved on and, for a time, did not need the land of Make-Believe. His song, after all, is “It’s you I like,” not “What can I do to make you like me?” Just as I did with Mr. Rogers, those who think they have outgrown us may eventually hear us in a new light and with newfound understanding. Or, they may not. But that’s all right.
Secondly, we never know what is going to land and when things will take shape in a person’s mind and being. The space between us is not only holy ground, but mysterious ground: landscapes filled with personal histories, day to day stresses, the song running through your head, and what people had for breakfast. The earth within us may be a formless void, and the deep may be chaos, but we need to remember that the holy spirit hovers over it all.
Finally, and on a related note, ultimately we aren’t the ones doing the forming. We may teach what we think is the worst session ever, and it’s just what someone needs that day. We may offer a program that we think knocks it out of the park, and people may go home saying s’alright. This is all a cooperative effort. We are blessed to do part of the work, but we know that others will have roles to play we could never fill, and that God is working within us and those we serve to do more than we hope for or even imagine.
God bless you as you stand on holy ground.