Calling All Clergy: Let Someone Else Hold Space for You.

This morning I found myself in a position I almost rarely do. I was hurt by something small, like really small in the grand scheme of things. And it involved a person I’ve come to trust and regard as a close friend in the last year or so.

For what feels like the first time ever, instead of letting it fester and try to push it way, I said something.

I said something not out of anger or hurt, but I said something because I trusted this person so much, that I knew I could say, “Hey, I am bothered by this. Can we talk even though this is the most terrifying thing I could ever do?” That is, in my opinion, the most invaluable gift to actually have a friendship like that.

As clergy, as people who pastor (whether you’re ordained or not!), we hold the space for others all the time. I love holding space for people in their vulnerability. It’s something I can offer and I will give it to anyone who asks for it: a safe space to be broken and hurt and know you are still fully loved.

Looking back on my time in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), I am so grateful for those parents who allowed me to hold that holy space as they grieved the loss of their child, or the families that allowed me in to hold the space as they celebrated finishing chemo knowing they still weren’t out of the woods, or the family that allowed me to literally hold the space of celebrating the birth of a healthy baby.

As an 8 on the enneagram, feelings are not my thing. Stoicism, loyalty, leadership, confrontation, confidence, those are my jam (as my wife can attest to). The greatest fear of an 8, my greatest fear, is being controlled by others. So, when I give my honest feelings to someone else, I’m giving up a piece of the control I’ve worked so damn hard to build my life around, and I’m telling this other person, “Here, take some of what I hold dearest to myself and hold it for me. Please be kind because I may never be able to give it again.”

So when someone else comes to me and needs me to hold space for them, they are saying that you’re a safe space, a safe person, and I value that and hold it dear in ways that so many never fully understand it. It is a gift, a sacred gift to hold someone’s space. And we can never take it for granted. It is the greatest thing I get to do in ministry.

As clergy and people who pastor, who holds our space? Our therapists? Our spouses? Our childhood best friends?

My wife holds the space for me. All. The. Time. She is my person. That is one of the most important things in our marriage: we hold the space for each other. But we need more than just one person. We need people. We are not meant to live alone. God literally created us to be people together. We need others, especially other clergy and pastor people, to hold our space sometimes.

Hold the space for each other and let others hold your space. Remember to be vulnerable. It’s okay. We aren’t invincible. We’re just as human as the people we serve.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine Vogel says:

    Shelley: wise words! Thanks. Christine


  2. Sarah Davelaar says:

    And sometimes holding space looks like letting a friend play Old School Mario on your tiny TV at random hours no questions asked. Thank you for being you.


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