We talk a lot in this ministry about creating a “safe space”—on the weekends, in R groups. Our culture also uses those words, to talk about creating safe spaces within universities, or online, for example. But those safe spaces mean something different. That safe space is a place to be safe from people who disagree with you, or have a different viewpoint from you. A place where you can be safe from uncomfortable feelings, from having to reconcile the gaps between how you should live and how you actually live. A place where you never have to feel uncomfortable, or feel anxious, ashamed, or sad.
Our current cultural moment sees all emotions as unsafe. The younger generations especially don’t know how to deal with emotions—they flee from them, believing that the secret to the good life is to feel happy all the time. The siren song of Instagram feeds and Internet ads tells us that if we just do this, have that, buy this, we’ll be satisfied and fulfilled, find happiness, be able to hold at bay the darkness of our underlying anxiety and sadness.
This doesn’t work, and the rise of depression and anxiety in our cultural is showing it.
What this ministry means by safe space is a place where it is safe to risk, a place where we can be supported in going to the edge and finding out that we have the power and ability through the Holy Spirit who is in us to go to the end of ourselves, meet God, and be changed. That we can go there and still find our way back to our center, to safety.
For many of us, feeling our emotions fully is a risk: owning that in the deep places of our souls, we live with fears, shame, grief, and anger, all of them unexpressed. A safe space is a place where we can learn to let those things out, to find out what longings or hurts are hiding underneath them, but also to learn what God wants to say to us through them.
When we deny our emotions, when we deny that these things are in us, it creates a static in our minds, hearts, and spirits. When we deny these things, we also cannot hear God’s voice.
All of the Christian life is a risk. Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him—a call to a life of obedience is also a call to the place of suffering, shame, and death. Dying not to happiness but to ourselves, dying to our own idea of safety, which isn’t safety at all, but dryness, stagnation, dry bones.
When we go to the edge and risk, supported by the safe and loving arms both of our Lord and our brothers and sisters, we find life. The wild, fulfilling, Kingdom-bringing, resurrecting life of Jesus Christ, which He offers us in love.