A Safe Place

I made it back from Mississippi, limping a bit from a water skiing accident and a pulled hamstring. Oh well! Youth must be served.

One of the things I appreciated about my time in Mississippi is how people open up when they find a safe place where they know they are loved, have the freedom to be where they are on the journey that day, and aren’t manipulated into agreeing with other people’s perception of truth. They can notice what they need to notice, question what they need to question and struggle where they are struggling. That’s where real learning, real growth and real transformation happen.

That doesn’t happen immediately, especially when someone like me comes to town. It takes a bit of time to dismantle the “author pedestal” and help people find freedom from the need to posture, impress, or simply not look foolish when talking to me. But when they finally feel relaxed enough to drop their guard, real community can happen.

I would that all of us could find such friendships, or at least offer it to others from their own life. It reminds me of the description of a safe place in Bo’s Cafe. If you haven’t read this story yet, you might want to check it out.

“I’m not sure.” I shake my head back and forth while crossing my arms. “I don’t get you guys. You talk about this being a ‘safe place,’ but neither of you two seem very safe at the moment.”

Carlos put his fork down and pats his hands on his knees, like he’s realizing the need to change his approach.

“I guess that depends on what you mean by safe, huh?” he says. “See man, if safe is just nice and sweet, where everybody’s smiling at you and nobody’s ever dealing with nothing, that’s not safe. That’s a retirement home. I like nice. Even Hank likes nice. Push come to shove, nice wins. But nice ain’t enough for safe. A safe place isn’t a soft place.

Safe is a place where you can get out the worst about you and they don’t run you off, talk you down or head for the hills. It’s having someone to stand with when you start to face the shameful stuff, man. It’s where you can be a jerk and still have a place at the table the next day…where you don’t have to hide or fake or pretend or bluff. Safe is being loved more for revealing your crap, not less.

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12 Comments
  1. Lynn May 26, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Being in, or finding that safe place takes enormous courage and trust. It’s uncomfortable to feel vulnerable and uncertain, with fears of judgment and abandonment. As for the entities that are creating or providing the safe place, I think it also takes an enormous amount of gracious strength, openness, commitment, listening and attentive presence for a shared experience of flawed existence.

  2. Lynn May 26, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Being in, or finding that safe place takes enormous courage and trust. It’s uncomfortable to feel vulnerable and uncertain, with fears of judgment and abandonment. As for the entities that are creating or providing the safe place, I think it also takes an enormous amount of gracious strength, openness, commitment, listening and attentive presence for a shared experience of flawed existence.

  3. Wayne May 27, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I agree that a safe place emerges out of relationship. No one should be asked to trust someone just because they say, “Trust me!” Trust emerges when you discover over time that someone cares about you deeply, isn’t trying to manage you, and is someone true to their word and true to their character. Thus, safe places cannot be created by people who are being told to trust. They emerge where people are trustworthy.

  4. Wayne May 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I agree that a safe place emerges out of relationship. No one should be asked to trust someone just because they say, “Trust me!” Trust emerges when you discover over time that someone cares about you deeply, isn’t trying to manage you, and is someone true to their word and true to their character. Thus, safe places cannot be created by people who are being told to trust. They emerge where people are trustworthy.

  5. Nancy May 29, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Wayne, is it ok with you if I use that quote of yours? I work in a domestic violence shelter as an occupational therapist teaching a life skills class, and we recently talked about Trust. I think your words could be healing for these women who have been so betrayed.

  6. Wayne May 29, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Absolutely, Nancy! Quote away! Happy to share with others who need it so much.

  7. Nancy May 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Wayne, is it ok with you if I use that quote of yours? I work in a domestic violence shelter as an occupational therapist teaching a life skills class, and we recently talked about Trust. I think your words could be healing for these women who have been so betrayed.

  8. Wayne May 29, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Absolutely, Nancy! Quote away! Happy to share with others who need it so much.

  9. Nicole May 30, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Oh Wayne, this was a great post. For the first time in my life I have experienced this first hand with a girlfriend I’ve made in Costa Rica. Learning how to love people where they are and not where I think they should be has really proven to make more of a difference than anything else. My friend was going through a rough time in a relationship she was in, and its amazing how much she trusted me with information and even advice and direction, just because I listened and didn’t judge everything she told me. She would ask me to tell her at one point what she should do about everything in regards to this relationship. At one point, she laid out all her problems and pains she was dealing with and saying she can’t find her self-worth anymore, I never had to say anything in regards to her state, or judge her, or find fault in her decision making. I simply sat there, listened, and rubbed her back while she cried. There was nothing to say, because she spent a long while hating on herself, that the last thing she needed was for me to hate on her and judge her and make her feel worse than she already felt. Once I realized what happened, my heart instantly broke when I realized that people are broken and more than likely they will see it before someone even points out their flaws, if we just give them a chance. Growing up a Christian, I felt like it was ‘my’ job to point out flaws and judge others because that is what I was taught. Though learning how to be in relationships without that and loving people where they are and deeply caring for them speaks louder than any words, judgments I could ever say to them… Love has a chance to win…

    Thanks for sharing this Wayne, this post spoke to me!

  10. Nicole May 30, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Oh Wayne, this was a great post. For the first time in my life I have experienced this first hand with a girlfriend I’ve made in Costa Rica. Learning how to love people where they are and not where I think they should be has really proven to make more of a difference than anything else. My friend was going through a rough time in a relationship she was in, and its amazing how much she trusted me with information and even advice and direction, just because I listened and didn’t judge everything she told me. She would ask me to tell her at one point what she should do about everything in regards to this relationship. At one point, she laid out all her problems and pains she was dealing with and saying she can’t find her self-worth anymore, I never had to say anything in regards to her state, or judge her, or find fault in her decision making. I simply sat there, listened, and rubbed her back while she cried. There was nothing to say, because she spent a long while hating on herself, that the last thing she needed was for me to hate on her and judge her and make her feel worse than she already felt. Once I realized what happened, my heart instantly broke when I realized that people are broken and more than likely they will see it before someone even points out their flaws, if we just give them a chance. Growing up a Christian, I felt like it was ‘my’ job to point out flaws and judge others because that is what I was taught. Though learning how to be in relationships without that and loving people where they are and deeply caring for them speaks louder than any words, judgments I could ever say to them… Love has a chance to win…

    Thanks for sharing this Wayne, this post spoke to me!

  11. mark weihe June 2, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I meant to post this here.

    When I was just a kid I went with my dad Gunter to a wind swept dusty house church in Kansas near Colman Jr High in Wichita. It was a hot and sunny day. They kept the doors open to allow a breeze. As a Kid I had so many questions and they stopped what was going on and answered me a kid about how God would deal with a soldier asked to kill for his country. I do not remember the answer but I do remember it was a safe place full of love and acceptance. It is strange how I knew then the truth of Fathers love and how over the years my practice of religion and shame clouded over me to blot out what I knew existed as a Kid. What a sea change the transition series has been for me. I know now that I am on my way back to the dusty house again and I will find again as I am lead on by His kind hands.

    A Prayer from Ancestor F.A. Weihe 1751

    Still He cannot let me go,
    could I hold Him closer ?
    Strengthen my faith
    so that I may honor Him.
    Come near again, my heart can feel it,
    I want to feel the new consolation !
    Savior ! Open my ears for me,
    lift up my heart to You.
    Fill my poor heart today
    with much new grace
    with light, blessing and truth,
    fill also my entire home.
    Help, Lord, that Your blood may wash me,
    Give me Your jewelry for ashes,
    wash all sins away,
    be my leader, my path and bridge.
    Cloth me with pure silk,
    with justice and joy.
    strengthen me with Your great power,
    that I can cheerfully change.
    Let Your flesh consume me,
    What is past is forgotten !
    As an Angel stands before You,
    more persistently to look at You.

    Keep heart and eyes open,
    let me believe, tolerant and hope.
    Emerge me in your death,
    stand by me in all danger.

    Grant me to deny all things,
    to carry Your shame joyously,
    unshakably to stand firm,
    always richly to share.

    Strengthen me with spiritual strength,
    in many holy ventures.
    Gather my scattered mind,
    so that I can always be with You.

    O, let Your Spirit guide me,
    staying humble and poor in Spirit,
    stubbornly to do nothing,
    only to rest in God’s leading.

    Is this Prayer Religion?

  12. mark weihe June 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I meant to post this here.

    When I was just a kid I went with my dad Gunter to a wind swept dusty house church in Kansas near Colman Jr High in Wichita. It was a hot and sunny day. They kept the doors open to allow a breeze. As a Kid I had so many questions and they stopped what was going on and answered me a kid about how God would deal with a soldier asked to kill for his country. I do not remember the answer but I do remember it was a safe place full of love and acceptance. It is strange how I knew then the truth of Fathers love and how over the years my practice of religion and shame clouded over me to blot out what I knew existed as a Kid. What a sea change the transition series has been for me. I know now that I am on my way back to the dusty house again and I will find again as I am lead on by His kind hands.

    A Prayer from Ancestor F.A. Weihe 1751

    Still He cannot let me go,
    could I hold Him closer ?
    Strengthen my faith
    so that I may honor Him.
    Come near again, my heart can feel it,
    I want to feel the new consolation !
    Savior ! Open my ears for me,
    lift up my heart to You.
    Fill my poor heart today
    with much new grace
    with light, blessing and truth,
    fill also my entire home.
    Help, Lord, that Your blood may wash me,
    Give me Your jewelry for ashes,
    wash all sins away,
    be my leader, my path and bridge.
    Cloth me with pure silk,
    with justice and joy.
    strengthen me with Your great power,
    that I can cheerfully change.
    Let Your flesh consume me,
    What is past is forgotten !
    As an Angel stands before You,
    more persistently to look at You.

    Keep heart and eyes open,
    let me believe, tolerant and hope.
    Emerge me in your death,
    stand by me in all danger.

    Grant me to deny all things,
    to carry Your shame joyously,
    unshakably to stand firm,
    always richly to share.

    Strengthen me with spiritual strength,
    in many holy ventures.
    Gather my scattered mind,
    so that I can always be with You.

    O, let Your Spirit guide me,
    staying humble and poor in Spirit,
    stubbornly to do nothing,
    only to rest in God’s leading.

    Is this Prayer Religion?

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