Faith Matters, General

Let’s talk: Holding Space

I’ve missed our ‘couch conversations’, our moments of sharing from personal experiences, from our hearts. So today, lets do exactly that. Let’s sit, and talk. Grab a cup of tea, or coffee, or juice. Whatever floats your boat.

Hey family! It’s Friday, so you know what that means.

Before I fully get into todays post and topic, let me start with a screenshot of the text I received that got me thinking on this topic of Holding Space.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to the sender of this text as ‘T’ .

Over the past year, the term Holding Space has popped up a number of times in various ways. Only very recently did I decide to dive a little deeper into it, in order to try to understand what it means and how it works.

I’m one of those who finds it difficult to jump into something I have zero knowledge about. Because of this, I try to read up on anything I may be trying to get into. The downside of this tendency is that it has created a self expectation to have to “know” how to deal with most things when they happen. Meaning sometimes, when life hits, I find myself stuck because I don’t know how to deal with a moment/experience.

An example, is grief.

I mentioned in my last blog post that my friend recently passed on to glory. A few days after, one of my closest friends asked me how I was really doing and I said to her ‘I don’t know, because I don’t know how to deal with grief. I don’t know if I’m doing it right.’ And she said “there is no book/manual for how to deal with grief”. Basically, everyone deals with it differently.

Before I digress too much, let me get back to the topic at hand.

Amidst all that was happening in that first week of grieving, I found myself reading up very briefly on holding space. Very, very briefly. This was on Friday, the 12th of June. But, because my reading was so rushed, what I’d read didn’t fully make sense to me. Looking back, I believe it was slightly confusing because I was trying to understand what it means to hold space through the lense of a video I’d seen some time last year. The video was of a father who sat in silence on the floor with his child as she had her tantrum. It was the first time I’d come across a video that expanded on the idea of holding space. And in that moment, it was an odd phenomenon.

Growing up, throwing a tantrum usually resulted in my mother telling me to stop crying or she would give me something to cry about. Yet, in this video, this father was very calm and patient with his daughter as she screamed and cried her lungs out. There were moments where she’d go to her dad just so he could hold her even though she was still crying and screaming. And he would do it. He would hug her for however long before she’d break away from him again and continue crying. This continued on until she eventually calmed down in his arms over 30 minutes later.

“Holding space” means being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone. It means putting your focus on someone to support them as they feel their feelings. An important aspect of holding space is managing judgment while you are present.

That Friday afternoon I left home and went to where I needed to be. As the day’s proceedings went on, I chose to sit next to T. T and I have developed a sibling-ship (we’ve gone from acquaintances to brother & sister) over the past 2-ish years.

On that day, he too was hurting.
I looked at him and had no words. All I could offer was my presence as a safe space. No questions. No comments. No conversation.

Just a comfortable silence.

At the time, my thoughts on trying to understand what it means to hold space for a loved one had totally slipped my mind. So I didn’t do it, offer that safe space, out of following a rule I’d learnt but more so out of instinct. And out of love.

And when he sent me that text later on in the evening, it hit me. Being my brother’s keeper had led me to BE what I kept trying to understand. It showed me that holding space is less about what you ‘know’, from a place of logic, and more about the moment.

I began to think about the Bible. I thought of Job, and how his 3 friends were holding space at the end of chapter 2. He’d lost almost everything, and was grieving. When his friends saw him, the bible says ... they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.”

I thought of God, and how He was holding space in Elijah’s life when it was needed. When prophet Elijah reached a point in his life where he was afraid, had no strength to carry on, and was suicidal, God stepped in. (Read 1 Kings 17 – 19)
Elijah was in a space that a number of us have been in. A space where nothing around us holds the value it normally does. A space where nothing can cheer us up, and we find ourselves just going through the motions because of the hurt in our hearts or the weight on our mind.

When all Elijah wanted to do was sleep, God knew His body needed both rest & strength. Twice, by God’s instruction, the angel of the Lord encouraged the prophet to eat. The second meal being enough to fuel his body for a 40-day journey. A journey guided by the Lord which, I imagine, gave him the opportunity to process all that he was feeling. It’s as though God set him on that 40-day journey for the purpose of physical, mental and emotional restoration.

Holding space is about letting the individual feel their feelings, without any judgement from your end. It’s about empathy. And we see God do exactly that, because when we get to verse 9 of chapter 19 God finally opens the space for transparent conversation. That was the moment when Elijah was finally ready to speak.

I think, very often, we dont allow God the opportunity to hold space in our lives in the way that only Divinity can. We ‘rob’ Him of the opportunity to allow us to feel everything as He guides the restoration process. I know for me, I’ve had times where I’d speak to God about something. I’d partially express sadness, or frustration, or disappointment and immediately expect the feelings to disappear because hello, I’ve just told GOD about it. He’s God. He should deal with it in a jiffy, right?

Am I alone in this? Or has this happened with you?

But I guess I’m learning that ‘using’ God as a way to try ‘run’ from the experience of processing feelings fully is not the way to go about it.

Psalm 62:5

What I’m getting at is this: let us learn to let the process of holding space take place like the cross. Both vertically and horizontally.

Horizontally: May we learn to really be there for our neighbours, and walk alongside them in whatever journey they’re on. To show empathy, to create spaces and moments where comfort and vulnerability can exist, because they make for a better healing process.

Vertically: May we recognise the truth that God’s silence in certain times/moments isn’t Him turning a blind eye to all we’re going through. Nor does it mean He hasn’t heard a word we’ve said. Rather, it is all a part of the truth that He is doing life with us, and sometimes life requires silence and/or stillness.

Grace & Peace to you & yours
– Xo, Jo 🌺

3 thoughts on “Let’s talk: Holding Space

  1. Holding space… Mmmhh the terminology is new but the way you explained it makes the experience as familiar as a well worn jersey.

    I never really thought God holds space, lol we all definitely want him to fix it in a jiffy. You have given me insight to the value of holding space.
    thank you

  2. God’s word really has helped me understand the term “Holding space”. Cheers to a life of holding space horizontally and vertically, much like the cross. Thank you for shedding so much light on this topic! Really looking forward to our next Couch Conversation

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