Monday, April 9, 2012

Safe Spaces

"Somebody told me that this is the place, where everything’s better and everything’s safe.” –Toad the Wet Sprocket

“This is a safe space.” Believe it or not, I giggled when I read that sentence.

The consolation came from an article about my favorite television show ending last week, after nine years on the air. The words went on with, “Are you crying?…Then this is the place for you.” I didn’t cry during the finale. But I can say I wasn’t without any emotion over the loss of getting to journey with some beloved characters.

While the line about a safe space was intended as a joke, I started thinking about how comforting that picture is. Each of us needs safe spaces in our lives. People to commiserate with when we are feeling less than ourselves, and places where we can let down and just be.

For me, driving into the Colorado border causes me to breathe a sigh of relief. It is home, and I know what to expect when I’m there. (Well, almost. We Coloradans know how to layer for unpredictable weather patterns.)

I also have a few friends I call when life is overwhelming. I know that nothing is off-limits with them. They can handle me and my messes. Those moments, even though they often span through a set of cell phones, signal that I am in a safe space.

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent a proposal about turning her former website into a place where people could contribute theme-based expressions of themselves. At first, I doubted it would work. Would people really be honest in their expressions? Would readers respond appropriately? I wondered. But, after some prayer, I wrote to tell her that I thought she should go for it.

Even though many of us have a safe space or two to go to, I don’t think it’s enough. We need more places where it is enough to be and not do. To sit and not try to accomplish. To feel anything we need to feel. To let others pray when we have nothing to say.

In addition, safe spaces can never be about myself. They must be about the other person or they won’t work. That means not fixing another person by telling them, or even suggesting, what they need to do. It means listening without judgment or interruption.

So, I guess I’m challenging myself and challenging you, too, to think of ways we can create safe spaces. Here are a few questions to get us started thinking about it:

What are some safe spaces (or people) in your life? What makes that space safe?
Why are safe spaces necessary?
What is one way I can provide a safe space for someone else this week?

As you consider the final question, know this: you are you, and God has given you some unique gifts. Work from there and see what happens. Ask God for guidance. Start with an e-mail to a friend, or listen to someone who is having a bad day.

Maybe then our only safe spaces won’t be about television shows. Although, I must admit I’m grateful for those places too. After all, nine years is a long time.

A few related resources:
If you want to check out the honest reflections my friend is facilitating, you can find them here.
Sacred Companions by David G. Benner
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

No comments: