Have you ever been tormented by the thought that you take up too much space? Have you ever thought that no one wants to hear from you, that your body is offensive, that your breathe too loud?
Trauma often has that effect. If you could only make yourself invisible, maybe they will stop hurting you.
So you turn your voice down; you cover up all of your body parts. You slouch down. Don’t make eye-contact. Hide in the corner. Curl up in a ball.
And you wish that you didn’t take up so much space.
In my translation, this Psalm is given the heading, “God’s Perfect Knowledge of Man.”
My heading would be “The Psalm for those who think they take up too much space”
Psalm 139:1–24 (NKJV)
1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
19 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
20 For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Stand up straight. Look me in the eye. Speak loud enough to be heard. Because you matter. Your space matters, because God made it.
In fact, we find out that after the Holy Spirit is poured out, your space is sacred space. Your body is the Holy of Holies of the Lord God who dwells in you. Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out his spirit on his sons and daughters, his old men and maidens. All of his people. Even you.
You matter. You can speak. Never apologize for taking up space. God loves you and the space you inhabit and he dwells there with you.
Read the Psalm again. And then again. Hide it in your heart.
Those who hate your space hate the God who made that space and placed you in it to be his Holy Temple. Now read verse 22 again. Take your space.
1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NASB 2020)
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
Take your space. Don’t hear those who seek to destroy. They are warring against you.
4 responses to “taking up space”
Gosh, I needed this today, Bro! I am a long time struggler with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation…thank you so much for this!
Keep writing, Sam… this is good and timely…
“If you could only make yourself invisible, maybe they will stop hurting you.”
I understand this almost too perfectly. I would dress down to avoid detection. Tried to not stand out to avoid being targeted. Tried to not speak out to avoid being ridiculed. Even minimizing movement gave you maximum chances of survival. I would watch others who were empowered to live as they pleased. But I “played dead” in order to live at all. The more I felt I was invisible to not getting noticed, the more I felt I was invincible to not getting hurt.
Trauma itself is already burdensome enough, but it can also create a burden that feels permanently glued to your soul: you are broken, so therefore you are worthless. You are broken, so therefore you are taking up “too much” space or interfering with or inconveniencing the space of others.
If you have a broken leg, you have to take up “extra” space in order to heal. Your leg has to stretch out and remain as immobile as possible. You cannot cross your legs in order to limit the space you are taking up. It will also take time to heal completely. It is not something you should be punished for. You should not be treated as abnormal just because your leg cannot move in normal ways. You are not worth any less as a person just because part of your person is broken.
For those broken from the inside out from trauma, the same narrative should apply, but too often it does not. Depending on the source of and cause of trauma, the mind needs to take up “extra” space in order to heal properly. Trauma has a way of immobilizing the mind, so it is hard to know how long it will take to deal with the terrible impacts of trauma.
Imagine a person with a broken leg who is now taking up extra space due to using crutches. They are with some friends who decide to walk fast and heckle their friend who cannot keep up with them. Eventually they are left behind, left alone, and left in shame. They are isolated from the group. Their broken limb is not healing “fast enough” for them.
This is often how it feels when you are not only traumatized, but you either self-isolate, or feel forcibly isolated from humanity. You are either taking up too much space by being wounded, or you are taking too long to heal from being wounded.
Pastor once wrote that the hired hands are the ones who beat the sheep for being too slow. The Shepherd, however, will work with your hobbled gait, or your hobbled heart. He is not inhibited by space or time, so you can bask in His limitless love for you, His boundless time for you.
So well put. You described the experience of being targeted by those who hate us-meaning they hate the Temple of God that we are and also hate the God Who made us His Temple in Jesus by the Holy Spirit. It’s so freeing to hear Pastor Sam urge us to read verse 22 in Psalm 139! We are so often taught the opposite. I’ve learned it’s OK and even commanded to hate what God hates.
And the gentleness and loving kindness of Jesus in helping us “hobble” through our recovery from traumas (some, like me, who have been the target of violent abusers all my life until I cut off their access time permanently) and the time and space it takes to recover which people often (all, in my case) have no patience for. But Jesus is not like people!! Praise God for that! He walks beside us as our Faithful Companion, in front of us to protect us from any dangers He sees ahead, behind us to catch us if we fall. In Him, we have everything we need. Even when ALL the people we thought knew our hearts and loved us chose to forsake us. Often, for selfish reasons. It’s inconvenient to stand up to bullies and abusers. Might cost people something. And that plays right into our trauma! Being abandoned, rejected, thrown away, shunned…because the abusers and their willing alllies have smeared us long before we ever exposed them as abusers. Preemptively. All this happened to me. The mass betrayals and abandonments were almost as bad as the abuse! A whole new trauma to from which I need to recover.
God bless and be with you every step of your journey towards wholeness in Christ. He is enough.