“Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” I wrote those words spoken by the Biblical Jacob (Genesis 28:16) in a thank you to the staff of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where my youngest daughter spent her first three months of life. I had never thought of an ICU as sacred until I tarried there with my premature daughter. In that space where the crossroads of life and death are determined, I found myself immersed in a sense of the holy. We encounter the mystery of God in our sacred spaces. I understand why Jacob would want to make an altar where he first encountered God.
Visitors to the Vietnam War Memorial or Ground Zero will tell of sacred space, hallowed with the prayers, tears and memories of all who have been there. One morning I stood at the side of the road where three students and two recent graduates of a college in southeastern Minnesota lost their lives, when their car slid into the icy waters of the Mississippi. I knew myself to be in sacred space. I was standing on Holy ground, space made sacred by the prayers of friends and family who had stood in that place before me.
Day by day we live in Holy space – a gateway where we are touched by the mystery of God. Sacred space, Holy ground exists wherever one encounters the living God and we know in that moment we are in the presence of the Holy. It is an awesome place. Jacob was on the run, fleeing for his life when he encountered sacred space. To his surprise he discovered himself in the presence of God. Not knowing what else to say, he blurted out, “How awesome is this place. This is none other than the very gate of heaven.” For Jacob it was the beginning of a journey into a relationship with God which would alter the course of his life. Our encounters with the Holy are life changing. For in that Holy, sacred space God touches our hearts, claiming us with Divine love.
* A version of this post was previously published as “Sacred Space- Holy Ground” on January 12, 2015