A Love Letter to Safe Places

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
— I Corinthians 14:4-7 (the Message)

To all you Safe Places out there—you are loved and cherished and appreciated.

Safe Places, do you know how rare you are? Do you know how often people who are suffering or struggling simply need a kind word or a hug just so they feel acknowledged and seen but instead receive rebuke or advice or a cold shoulder? I bet you do. I bet you know exactly what it feels like when you are hurting and you just need a friend to smile at you with kind eyes and offer to listen, but instead receive something else… It happens all the time, and I’m probably guilty of doing that to people right and left without even realizing it.

You there, you Safe Places, you are special. Those of you who don’t withdraw, who don’t answer hearts with platitudes and blank smiles. Those of you who trust the Holy Spirit in others and who trust that God is good and God is working out a beautiful plan of redemption in his sovereignty, even though we struggle to see it. Those of you who aren’t afraid to engage and who don’t rush our angry, frazzled processing but allow us room to wrestle and learn what it means to lean into Jesus, who take joy in seeing Jesus woo us and draw us to him instead of trying to force us to some kind of correct conclusion. Those of you who don’t leave the room because you are uncomfortable, but joyfully stay to listen and engage with your hearts because you delight in watching God meet people in grace, right where we are in the messy struggles of life.

You Safe Places who don’t pat us on the head and move on quickly, but get down in the trenches with us. Those of you who don’t lecture or judge or wag your finger, but invite and soothe and pray. Those of you who see how we are hurting and lacking in faith but who are willing to have faith in a faithful God on our behalf. You who don’t sigh with agitation or annoyance but open your arms wide in compassion and invitation. You who don’t turn and walk the other way when you see us coming but speed up and hurry to meet us.

Safe Places, I cringe to wonder how many times I’ve taken you for granted or have failed you. How many times have I overlooked you or been too tired to notice your pain? Please forgive me. Thank you for your example of tenderness and mercy. Thank you for providing refuge to your friends and reflecting God’s gentle love to us. Thank you for not putting pressure on us to perform or be “right,” but allowing us the space to dance in our grief, bumping into fear and doubt on our way to Jesus’ arms. Thank you for your grip on our hands, the kindness in your voice, the security in your love.

Safe Places, I want to be just like you, for my husband and children and sisters and friends. For my neighbors and community! I want to put selfish ways behind me and learn to trust God with the hearts of others’. For all the hundreds of times you’ve listened to my weary rants, wiped my tears, responded kindly to my emails, texted me back in the middle of the night, squeezed my arm, voxed me when I needed a friendly voice, Thank you! You are treasured. I wish I could articulate how redemptive your love is to hurting, confused, depressed, anxious people. My prayer is that God will embrace you with the intimacy of his delight, that you will never feel overlooked, that you will experience the comfort of the Lord’s refuge.

Thank you for loving big, for loving in this sacred way, for taking the risk to be Safe Places. We praise God for you.