(Originally posted October 2015)
When I took my driver’s test in 1994, I received two point deductions. The first was for stopping at a yellow light (go figure!) and the second was for leaving too much space between my car and the car in front of me at a traffic light. Yes, believe it or not, too much room can actually be a problem.
Last week I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Haiti with Tim and another couple from our church. From the moment of our first boarding call at JFK, it became clear that this trip was going to be quite a challenge for this introverted highly-sensitive-person. In other words, my personal space bubble was about to get popped.
As we left the Port-au-Prince airport parking lot, drove through the city, and visited several places throughout the southern part of the country, I learned something from the Haitian people that I won’t soon forget: You have more room than you think.
When we got into our rental car, it was parked in a spot that seemed mathematically impossible to exit. If it was up to us, we would have sat around and waited until some other cars moved. But our friend Almando, who was driving, knew better – he knew we had plenty of space (and he used every centimeter of it) to maneuver the vehicle out of the spot. We couldn’t believe it!
After leaving the airport, we spent an expected couple of hours in Port-au-Prince traffic. At first I was kind of freaking out – the absence of lane lines, traffic lights and stop signs was making me feel a little uneasy! There were cars, vans, buses, trucks – and pedestrians everywhere and I was sure we were going to see accidents all around us.
But we didn’t. Because drivers in Haiti know: You have more room than you think. Being in traffic like this on a regular basis has caused them to come to a greater spatial understanding. They know exactly how much space their vehicle takes up and exactly how much space they will need in order to merge or pass. They know that there is room – even if it doesn’t look like it.
A couple days later, we had the opportunity to attend a church service in Cherette, a smaller village about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince. Before the service started, Tim, who had been there before, told me that this fairly small church sanctuary would soon be filled with about 300 people!
And he was right – those benches filled right up and even though it was crowded and hot, we worshiped God together. We were greeted over and over again and welcomed with so much love as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Although as guests we were given chairs to sit in that day, I couldn’t help but notice the benefit of the benches – because in the space where three people might sit in chairs, six or even seven might fit on a bench. Therefore, there’s always room for more.
So maybe that closeness, maybe what seems like a lack of personal space, is actually more “roomy” than we think. Maybe our “chairs” and “lanes” and all of the “space” we seem to have here is doing us a disservice – maybe it’s actually causing the room for others in our hearts to shrink. Maybe too much room can be a problem.
I’m a big fan of my bubble. I like to stay in there and do my own thing and live my own life and only let in the people that I want to let in. But as I know Jesus more and more, I see that He was constantly making room for others – especially the others that no one else wanted to let in. He poured out His love and mercy on them so that they would know that there was space for them in His kingdom.
I’ve got plenty of room. It may not look like it at first glance, but the truth is that I have more room than I think. And even though the closeness of that “bench” style life could get awkward and uncomfortable, if it means I’ll have the opportunity to slide over and show someone that there’s room for them in God’s family, I’ll take that over the chairs any day!