My work involves people who are in conflict with other people. And what I do in my work involves creating space that allows those people to get a break from abrasive things that irritate and aggravate them into a painful conflict experience.
Sometimes that space has to be physical space. In those cases, the conflict is so intense that being in the same room is too uncomfortable, too painful. And it’s in those mediations that I become a shuttle diplomat — dispatched with communication after communication that will create a new space for understanding.
Recently I conducted a mediation in another state. The parties asked for total separation and, although that’s not my preferred way of handling things, I agreed given the nature of their dispute. Not having a neutral place to host the mediation, I rented two suites in the same hotel. The suites were 20 rooms apart and arranged so that the parties could come and go without fear of crossing paths.
So, over the course of two days, I shuttled back and forth between the parties. Depending on the message I carried, the 143 paces between the rooms seemed very different. Some trips seemed very long. Other journeys were almost over before they started.
It was somewhere in the second day that I began to see these 143 steps as my space. I realized that even those who are inserted in a conflict for the purpose of creating space for others need that same luxury.
I came to cherish each of the 143. Although I only counted them once, I came to know every one of them well.
Honor the space that you’re allowed. I’m convinced that the true cathedrals of our lives are those spaces that give us room to find peace. And, if I could presume to know the mind of God, those same spaces would be just the sort of cathedral where He would prefer to meet us.