How many times do we find ourselves running on empty with no time for rest, no time for ourselves, no time for God? Bonnie Gray knows what that’s like. On the brink of fulfilling a lifelong dream — she saw her plans unexpectedly shatter into a journey through painful memories, panic attacks and anxiety. In her search for answers, she made an important discovery: we all need spiritual whitespace. Whitespace is the space on a canvas left unmarked. Whitespace makes art beautiful. It gives the eye a place to rest. Just like beautiful art, our souls need to breathe and find rest. With heartbreaking honesty, Bonnie guides us to discover a better story for ourself, one that feeds our soul and makes room for rest. A grace to welcome Bonnie to the farm’s front porch today…
I stood on the escalator next to him, one hand on the rail, as we rose higher to the upper level.
It felt so grand to be in such a fine place: the children’s department at The Emporium’s.
It wasn’t a place where we usually bought our clothes — but today was different.
It was one of my father’s first visits after the divorce.
I was excited because he said I could pick out whatever I wanted.
My father shuffled beside me with his greased-up hair, baggy pants, and wiry legs moving in sync with my curiosity. He would pull out something random off the shelves. This is pretty . . . you like?
Then I saw it.
Hanging up high, perched on a special display, was the most beautiful outfit I ever saw: a soft bubble-gum pink corduroy jacket with silver buckles and matching pants.
It was perfect. It’s hard to explain, if you’ve always had nice clothes or if the thought that something was worn or mismatched never occurred to you.
It looked amazing to me. Which one I should get—the jacket or the pants?
As I stood there tippy-toes, reaching out to fish the outfit down for closer inspection, my father walked up next to me.
He told me to stand still and placed the outfit in front of me with one arm shot straight out, eyeing me like an old woman threading a needle.
“Turn around,” he said, pressing the sleeves against my wrists. “It fits. Daddy will buy both for you.”
As I stood there at the checkout register, watching my father pay, I couldn’t believe it. The whole outfit?
My heart was bursting, full of something beautiful. New. All for me.
Never in a thousand years would I have guessed I’d never even have the chance to wear that jacket and those pants out in broad daylight. They were thrown in the garbage later that night.
A Perfect Moment
We didn’t have a garbage disposal back then. So my momma took whatever leftover gunk was found in the sink and dumped it on top of my outfit, with the tags still hanging off of it. I stood there in that gloomy kitchen. Devastated.
I don’t have anything good anymore. It’s gone.
I felt so lonely. Something I thought was perfect and mine was no longer any good.
I thought it fit perfectly when I tried it on in front of the mirror in the hallway. I could tell from my mother’s eyes that this was the furthest thing from the truth.
“You look ridiculous,” she spat.
Maybe this is when I first learned how completely lonely a feeling it is to hope for joy – how hoping for it meant leaving room for disappointment.
It’s easy when you’re young to believe dreams can come true.
But if you’ve ever truly had a perfect moment carry you to a place of belief—whether it be a positive pregnancy test, a romance, friendship, a parent, your health, a career, maybe a home or a life-long passion —and then had it taken away, then you know what it feels like to see something perfect end up in the refuse of broken dreams and mismatched opportunities.
You begin to wonder whether anything is worth delighting in again.
Is anything really worth enjoying if it can’t last anyway?
This is why joy feels dangerous. Because for some of us, joy is connected to times in our lives where it was taken away or ruined, when a simple moment of happiness was decimated by a person, place, or thing.
I didn’t want to have my joy end up in the trash again. I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, but I did not choose joy for the sake of having joy. I didn’t need it.
I coped by becoming self-reliant, performing, and meeting other people’s expectations for a very long time.
This way of life is called perfectionism.
There is an unintended side-effect with perfectionism. It offers protection but your soul remains weary.
I was numb to delight. I worked hard to gain comfort and security rather than joy, until Jesus caught me unguarded in a moment:
I was there, Bonnie. I stood beside you, as you cried. As you looked into the garbage and saw something you loved being destroyed, I was there. And I’m here with you now.
I heard Jesus whisper these words into my heart one morning as I walked on a trail lined with thorns and thistles dried by the summer heat.
The Side of the Road
Imperfect. Bruised. Ugly.
“Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asked Jesus. He wanted a black and white answer.
Instead, Jesus told him a story of a nobody on his way to Jericho. Lying on the side of the road. He was damaged goods to people who had places to go and important names to meet.
This was the man no one had time to stop and give attention to, except for the Good Samaritan.
Jesus tells us precious oil and wine were splurged onto this man’s wounds.
Joy. Joy is the oil and wine missing from my life.
Jesus understands the wounds where joy has been demolished. Where something beautiful fades into the sidelines of our stories. I heard Jesus say to me as I felt these wounds surface:
Your wounds are not invisible. Your wounds have value to me.
The Joy-Wounded Stranger
I used to think the wounded stranger in Jesus’ story was someone else. Now I know that joy-wounded stranger is me.
Jesus reminded me this man was carried to a place of rest.
I will never run out of rest for you, Bonnie. No matter how much you need. No matter how long it takes. I will care for you.
Jesus is telling me to stop on the side of the road of my busy life and take care of me.
Jesus is calling me to make room for Spiritual Whitespace– to slow down, nurture and awaken my soul to joy and rest.
That Pink Outfit
When we prioritize time for rest, we are reaching for our “pink outfit” of joy.
We all have old pink outfits—the ones that were taken from us or destroyed. But God can help us recover the courage to reach for a new pink outfit today.
Jesus is kind and gentle, never tiring, always longing to whisper in different ways—
You are loved.
You’re worth it.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, garnering starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, as one of the Top 6 notable new religion authors. Bonnie’s writing is nationally syndicated, as contributor at Crosswalk.com and DaySpring (in)courage. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie has been missionary, ministry entrepreneur and high-tech professional in Silicon Valley.
Bonnie serves up shots of faith at FaithBarista.com in Northern California with her husband Eric and their two sons. Maybe this summer is just the time to find some Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.