One of the pictures I treasure from my childhood is of me when I was probably two years old. I was dressed in a bright pink frilly dress and my thin blond hair was a mass of wispy, unruly ringlets. My sister, who was ten at the time, stood holding me, dressed in the same dress as me. We were both next to a spindly cherry tree in full bloom with pink blossoms.

As the tree and I both grew, I discovered that I found a sacred place under its boughs. You see, the root system of this tree grew very close to the surface. Within its twists and turns, I found a spot that perfectly supported not only my back but also my neck and head. Under this tree, I learned how to read, how to sew invisible stitches on a hem and how to play chess. Under its boughs, I felt God’s protective love because, nestled within its root system, I discovered a safe space.

Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice, describes the importance of safe places “to facilitate listening when sensitive or controversial issues are being discussed.”1 In short, it is how true listening takes place. She describes two foundational aspects of creating such a space: finding a common ground, and having respect for each other in the differing ways of expression. The aspects below are the author’s; the explanations are mine.

Common ground. As a Catholic Christian, our common ground that every person is created in God’s image and likeness. Because of this, every person has a fundamental right to be respected, even if we don’t agree with their politics or their belief system. They ARE a child of God even if they don’t know that! Can we gaze on them with eyes of our Creator’s and love them? If we can, that creates scared space.

Respect for each other and their differing ways of expression. Have you ever looked back at old pictures and thought, “How could I ever have worn that in public?” Our clothes as well as our words change, not only due to cultural pressures but also with different perspectives. These perspectives might be alien, but nevertheless are reality to the person with whom we engage. Reverence that. God can work though differences and His glory can be found within those gaps!

If we really begin to live like this, not only do we begin to listen differently, but also we begin to find the hidden roots of being a child of God. I invite you to find your own sacred spot nestled within the roots of the tree of life!

1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 44-46.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness