The Third Space: Where Common Place Meets Strategic Intentionality

by Andrea Thiele

Everyday each of us lives in a collection of several different spaces. We visit these spaces throughout the day because, for the most part, its these spaces that make our lives unique. These spaces make up the various different ways we engage in society or are engaged by society. It is through these spaces that we find our influences and opinions, our morals and behaviors, or better put, our worldview. It’s in these spaces that we find love, discover friendships, build careers, and realize an identity. These spaces could be our work space, personal space, friendship space, or what we call the Third Space. The third space is the place where a pre-believer encounters a safe place to interact, work or play with a believer. Where commonality collides with intentionality for the Kingdom.

The Other Side of The Court: Our Third Space

There are two sand volleyball courts at our local park, on either side of the courts are a set of bleachers.  We join our kids every Sunday afternoon to hang out and play volleyball. Over the past several months we have drawn quite a crowd. We have the regulars, the happen-byers, the serious player, and those who just come to socialize. None the less, without fail the same diehards are there every week.

Inevitably we all show up and go to our corners of the courts. Our team (friends and family) rally up to bleachers on the left side of the court, and their team to the right side. The bleachers are like base when playing tag. It’s the “safe” space. It’s where we go in-between the games, where we keep our stuff, phones, water bottles, etc. and it’s also where we chat with our friends in-between games. They have their base and we have ours. We don’t cross sides unless we have to retrieve a ball or ask a question, then we return to our collective bleachers.

The sand is the place where we intermingle. We pick and divide teams there. This is the place that we become one, albeit temporarily. On the court there is no division, the “safe place” is the team you are on. We work together to defeat our opponent. There are no strangers on the court, we slap hands, shout “good serve”, and “well done”! When we win, we celebrate together, when we lose, we are bummed together.

In this third space we represent 10 nations. Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Mexico, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Hungry, Russia, China, Iraq and America. Over the past several months, we have seen the dynamics of the two teams change as we have been intentional to introduce ourselves, and form friendships. There are no ulterior motives, just loving on people and building friendships.

As God would have it two weeks ago our teams had a God encounter. As we were wrapping up the night a new group showed up.  The group of 5 guys were a little disruptive and causing a bit of a scene. Not wanting to be exclusive we all tried to welcome them, but something was off. Come to find out the guys were up to no good. Before we knew it they stole from our side of the bleachers.

Without thought, both teams, ours and theirs, ran off to stop the thieves. They had encroached on sacred ground. Soon, we were a team off the court. Although the guys got away, what happened next was incredible.

Last Sunday we gathered. As I approached our bleachers I noticed a much larger crowd on our side of the courts. I also noticed the other set of bleachers, they were empty. No one gathered there. Both teams were on our side of the court. Their stuff sprawled out on the benches, drinks, phones, gear. Their team was talking with our team, on our side, now their side.

In this space, where commonality meets intentionality, lives are impacted, friends are made, and shared experience brings Kingdom life.

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