There’s a lot of discussion in our nation and world about security. Almost daily we wake up to news of another terror attack or shooting. From securing our homes, public gathering places and national borders, there are so many questions and opinions about what is needed to keep people safe. While our collective safety is a matter of public discussion, I have a different aspect of safety to ask you to consider:
Are people safe with you?
It has long been my desire that people would be safe with me. It’s a desire birthed out of an incident many years ago when my actions caused a friend not to feel safe with me. We were serving in ministry together, and she was (in my opinion) not serving well. One day I was sharing my concerns with another member of the ministry team. She walked in, and I was mortified. Had she heard me? Did she know I was talking about her? Had I hurt her? How could I have done this? A flood of thoughts and emotions overwhelmed me, all of which could have been avoided if I simply hadn’t been talking negatively about her.
That day marked a shift for me. Not that I’ve mastered this — not at all, but the remorse I felt on that day birthed a desire deep within me: I want people to be safe with me. Drawing on the definition of safe, I want people to be secure and protected by me, to have no risk of injury or harm from me, to be protected to grow while with me.
An understanding of how to live this out recently came to me from a comment my husband made. After keeping our two (completely adorable and amazing — #nobias) granddaughters, he said: “You work hard for those girls.” His statement took me by surprise. It didn’t feel like work. Was I a bit tired? Yes. But was there a desire or option to have it any other way? Not at all. Like parents and grandparents all across the world, when those girls are with us, three things are central in my mind. I want them to be:
- Physically safe. I want their physical needs to be met with abundance — be it food, a clean diaper or a comfy bed. When they are with me, I drive more carefully and pay attention to things more intently.
- Emotionally nurtured. I want them to be heart-happy, to know how much we love and delight in them.
- Spiritually fed. Though this often seems to take a back seat because of their young ages, I seek to feed them spiritually through the books we read, songs we sing and prayers we pray.
What if I / we were equally as intentional with all the people in our lives? To seek, on their behalf, to keep them:
- Physically safe: Keep their personhood, who they are as a person, safe. For the words we say about them to be ones we’d happy or willing to say to them, to be words that make people think highly of them.
- Emotionally nurtured: To respect their unique needs and struggles. To, instead of becoming irritated or judging, seek to understand and be loving.
- Spiritually fed: Like the Apostle Paul, to be focused on people’s “progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25). To be open to how God might want to use us as part of His maturing process.
We could discuss this topic for days. And please know, I’m not a counselor or therapist. I’m coming at this from only one angle: a follower of Jesus wanting to be a safe place for the people in my life. I want clear cut ways to do it. I want a plan for when I’m hurt or could become offended. (Note: I’m not talking about a relationship that is in any way abusive or perpetually unsafe — that’s different.)
I want this because I have a tendency to pull away when people feel unsafe. This is not God’s way, and this very tendency can result in people not being safe with me. We need to be a place where people are free to be the person they are now, while enabling them through our love and support to become the person God proclaims / made them to be.
What we’re really talking about is loving people well, loving them as 1 Corinthians 13 calls us to love:
to be patient, kind, not envying, boasting, prideful or rude; to not be self-seeking, easily angered or a person who keeps a record of wrongs. We’re called to protect people, trust people, hope the best for and about them as we persevere with them.
Is there an appropriate way to voice concerns about a person to another person? Yes, but I believe such times are few. It’s done not as gossip or to fix them, but to strengthen, encourage, advise and hold you accountable to a higher degree of love for them. It’s shared with people who themselves can love and not judge them, people who in recognizing their own brokenness can join you in loving and praying for them. This, I believe, enables us to seek wise counsel while the person with whom we are struggling remains safe with us.
What if God’s people lived this way? Imagine the glory God would receive, the healing He could bring, the restoration He could showcase in people’s lives. Are you in? I’d love to hear specific ways God is leading you! How do you:
“So then, let us pursue [with enthusiasm] the things which make for peace and the building up of one another [things which lead to spiritual growth]” (Romans 14:19 AMP).