If You Have Space to Read
Over the last few years, there has been a slew of books in the "Christian living" category that targeted the cultural experience of hurry. The need to move fast, succeed, achieve, hussle, put in more sweat than the next guy. Of course, these were needed invitations off of the cliff as the societal expectations were driving us, and still do, to anxiety, depression and a weight of displeasure with our experience of life.
While there has been some divine intervention, a pandemic that forced us to slow down, the inclination remains. We see it in the ache to get "back to normal," even though that normal was killing us.
I took up a couple of these books and my fair share of articles calling for the same embrace of slowness and Sabbath. Some with more reference to Jesus than others, but in all of them, I felt like I was left wanting. While they presented some good thinking and advice, most made me think that I was watching the formation of a new law, a new set of tasks to achieve even if that meant shutting my phone off for a day and baking pizza with my family!
Most of these pieces also assumed affluence with no thought toward the wage-earner or poor. Worse still they neglected the grace of Jesus as the motivating fire of freedom to slow down.
Enter thought "A Spacious Life" from Ashley Hales. Someone shared how they heard their own ache in the beginning pages of the book so I grabbed it and I couldn't put it down. This was what I was in need of, a gospel-saturated invitation to embrace God-given limits in order to have a "spacious life."
While the Megachurch vibe tells you to be "limitless" Hales actually builds a resounding case for the good of limits and a fresh experience of life within them.
From the publisher: "Contrary to what we've believed, the spacious life is not found in unfettered options or accomplished by our hustle and hurry. The life we crave is found within the confines of God's loving limits. Ashley helps us recognize that when we live within these boundaries, we discover a life filled with purpose, joy, and rest. This is the spacious life—finding true freedom within the good limits given to us by our good God."
Thirteen chapters through really normal things of life Hales paints a clear vision of running after less to gain more. I highly recommend it to you.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
"Whether or not we call ourselves Christians, most of us do not practically live out this better story, the one lived under the rule and leading of Jesus. The good news of Jesus takes a stick of dynamite to our carefully ordered, autonomous lives on the right and the left, so that we’re forced to reckon with this reminder from Fleming Rutledge: “If the kingdom of heaven is at hand, as John the Baptist says, then all our other kingdoms are called radically into question, including my own private kingdom, and yours.” We are not the monarchs of our own lives."
"Freedom is not simply freedom from constraints but for something—for love."
"It is his unhurried attention we crave, his healing touch, his piercing wisdom and upside-down kingdom. Whether it’s from shame or fear, we, like our first parents, choose to hide instead. Social media addiction is just one of our modern-day methods to push off the fierce and tender presence of God. But Jesus isn’t on Instagram."
"Waiting reminds us that although we have agency, we are not ultimately in control. For those of us who find value in achieving, working hard, and crossing off tasks on our to-do lists, waiting can push us into a tailspin as it unhooks the lynchpin between who we are and what we do."
"Freedom isn’t stuffing more on your calendar to feel good enough. We’ll find freedom—not in the absence of constraints but in the presence of loving ones. A week to recover from a busy week. A slow night reading by the fire. Saying no to the PTA meeting, sports schedule, or last-minute request to volunteer."
"Delight is an appropriate response to being loved by God. The psalmist tells us it is God’s delight that motivates his care: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps 18:19 NIV). God’s delight prompts his provision, his rescue. The spacious place isn’t the result of earning it or hurrying to achieve it. God delights in us because we are his. He reaches down, picks us up, and brings us out into a spacious place. He offers in himself a hiding place, a cleft in the rock, a horn of salvation, and a stronghold (Ps 18:2). As God delights in us, he teaches us how to delight in him."
"We need Jesus to touch us. We need the Spirit to awaken us. We notice our lack of attention, we repent of our hurry, we pray for the attentive awakening touch of Christ, and we pray to be drawn into a life of love: a life of attention to God and neighbor."
"Jesus fits us together, living stones on the foundation of Christ alone, and as our shepherd, guides us into spacious places not only for ourselves but also for the good of the world. He does so by taking in diverse individuals, calling us to follow him, and enabling us to practice community together."
"The resurrection brings the reality of future hope into our present, small, embodied lives."