Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in the Doorway

Often, in religion-land, we talk (I talk) about being created in the image of God. Imago Dei. I usually think about this in terms of other people. I look and I see a beautiful youth, a reflection of the divine, and know that they are loved and are love.

But what about looking at myself?

Monday, I was at the IRS. Ugh. I have had my identity stolen. I needed to prove to the IRS I was who I said I was so that they would let H&R Block file my taxes. The proving part was easy, and a criminal case has been opened. What was hard was the waiting. And the human hubris.

Sunday, I was at Lake Washington UMC, presiding and preaching. It was a blast and I tackled a difficult subject–radical nonviolence. Especially, the nonviolence that begins with myself–interior nonviolence. I was greatly moved when a woman talked to me afterwards about now hearing the internal put-downs as doing violence to herself. “Awesome!” I thought. And I was really feeling it–this tug towards nonviolent action that starts with yourself.

Monday, waiting in line at the IRS, there were 40 people jammed into a little office and 40 people waiting in the hallway of the office building the IRS rents space in. Then the vacuum lady came. She said, “Everybody get out of the hallway now! Get inside!

Confusion amongst the people.

“Get inside or go downstairs!”

She just wanted to vacuum and the company rules are that no vacuuming can occur unless there are zero people in the hallway. Some liability issue with the cord and people tripping. :-/

I looked at the amount of people jammed into the office and thought, “There is no way. This is unsafe, someone will get hurt.” And I thought of going downstairs and losing my place in line, and I thought, “There is no way I am losing my place in line.” And there may have been curse words interspersed in there.

I said, “It is unsafe, capacity in this office is exceeded.” I then stood on the edge of the doorway between the office and the hallway. I now view that doorway as a liminal space–a sacred space of potentiality.

She said, “I will shut the doors to the office.”

I thought, “Bring it!

How quickly I devolved from nonviolence to violence in my thinking and communication. At least my internal communication. I didn’t say anything to her, but I am sure that my stance and eyes communicated all that needed to be said. Which was, “Call the cops on me–I don’t care.” Yep. I was willing to risk arrest so that I would not lose my place in line at the IRS. That may or may not be bordering on the ridiculous.

The upshot is, where do we see the divine? Is it in perfected behavior? In the “love” and “patience” and “serenity?” Or can we see it in the “anger” and “frustration?” Because if we are honestly made in the image of the Divine, then those must be qualities that come from God!

Anyway, after the vacuum-lady left, the IRS called a bunch of numbers and we were all confused as to who they were because nobody came when the numbers were called (some people actually did go downstairs). Until one number was called and we all knew who it was–a family with little kids. And we knew that they had gone downstairs. People spoke up. They were willing to extend their wait in line to see that the injustice of losing their place in line was righted. The staff went downstairs and got the family, taking more of their time when they had a bunch more people impatiently waiting. This family was cared for.

Maybe that is where we see the best of the imago dei. The willingness to extend our own discomfort to ensure that justice is done.

“The Lonely Vacuum of Space ”This Sucks” by JD Hancock CC BY 2.0 at
The Lonely Vacuum of Space
”This Sucks”
by JD Hancock
CC BY 2.0 at

Post by Terri Stewart (c) 2014, originally posted at

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at,, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to


I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

8 thoughts on “Sacred Space in the Doorway

  1. I agree that for me, personally, the time I most see the Divine within others is when I see people giving, paying it forward, especially if it’s a sacrifice to themselves. There ARE good people out there. When I think of someone being “Christ-like”, I think of those who often give so much of their limited time, resources, etc. to help others. I never really thought much about non-violence towards self, but it makes perfect sense. I hope your identity theft problem gets resolved asap and that they catch the person who did it! 😦 What a pain. Hope you had a Happy Easter anyway!


  2. The perfect story for Easter Sunday, which is about forgiveness and sacrifice … Oddly, it also made me thing of the traditional Buddhist symbol of Yin and Yang.

    Wishing you all the blessings of the day, Terri, and so very sorry to here that life is complicated by identity theft, though you seem well able to see the Divine in all the inconvenience. 🙂


  3. “Divine” is a concept that we have constructed, so it actually comes from us, I think. We are all divine and human and these things are connected more than separate….IMHO.


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