The Space Between Action And Reaction
The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says to the people, “Come back and quietly trust in me. Then you will be strong and secure.” Isaiah 30:15 GNT
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor Frankl
Someone posted on social media today a paraphrase of the quote by Vicktor Frankl, that between action and reaction there is a space. I found his original quote and I like the idea of stimulus and response, because it includes action/reaction, but is more expansive.
Between whatever comes into our lives, for good or ill (as we perceive those), and our response, there is a space. I would go further to say that what we do in that space, or perhaps, what we allow to be done in us in that space, is where our growth and freedom has its genesis.
The road to my home is no longer a quiet, secluded, lane leading to our peaceful corner of the Wekiva wilderness. Construction in our neighborhood removed cherished trees and displaced wildlife. Our poor squirrel population didn’t know what to do, and searched vainly for food in the bare ground. More personally, the loss of the trees now makes our home clearly visible from the highway to our south.
The stimulus of this upheaval created a scarred and unfriendly space, and my first instinct was to respond with anxiety, anger, and fear. I dreamed that there was a mighty crane parked in my yard. My blood pressure soared for days.
Really, all those are very natural responses, and when they happened I could perceive no space between them and the stimulus.
Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. 2 Corinthians 4:18 AMPC
The Spirit reminds me that even though I rushed and didn’t see the space between stimulus and response, it was still there, more real and eternal than what I could see out my home’s doors and windows.
What’s more, this ignored and invisible space is something I can return to, even when I rush to a response. God is patient and lets us defy the bounds of space and time in this way, it seems.
A few days after the beginning of construction I returned to that space between stimulus and response. I recalled how I felt when all I knew and trusted about the serenity of my home was so violently ripped away. The Spirit gently said, “This is how so many of my children live every day” and my heart ripped. I saw families running from their homes and returning to find rubble where there once was walls and laughter, kitchens and conversations, beds and bed-time stories. I saw orphans sitting in streets.
In the space my eyes teared and my heart ached in a new and tender way for what was happening in places that seemed very far away, but now feel much closer, because my heart has moved closer to them.
I tell God that I don’t compare my situation with theirs (comparison is hardly ever profitable), but I am thankful for this small crack in my heart where God’s heart and light floods in. I pray for them with new awareness and they have become closer and real to me as brothers and sisters.
Portrait of Refugee, Paris 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)
What is the stimulus that has entered your life, for good or ill (in your perception)?
If you haven’t responded yet, can you sit for awhile, and notice what God may be telling you in the space? The space between stimulus and response is where our growth and freedom has its genesis.
If you, like me, have rushed to response without perceiving the space, it’s not too late. Take a moment and return to when you first heard the news, or felt the pain, or your heart leapt. Remember that God is not restricted by space and time, and will be there when you turn and consider, ready to teach you, love you, and lead you.
The space between stimulus and response is unseen, but real, and the things which are unseen are eternally important and valuable.