The title may sound like an oxymoron. And some first reactions may be, “Forsake safety!” “I laugh in the face of safety.” These are the same people who pulverize a collarbone (the x-ray tech said that) when they ride a BMX bike without a helmet. (Says the wife of a husband of such an adventure.)
Deep down, it sure helps to make those brave and vulnerable decisions knowing that there are people in our corner praying for us and doing a lot of cheering on. And if we are lucky, having those hard talks with us that we need to have from time to time.
Leaning on one of my favorite wise people again, Dr. Henry Cloud. He asked people to describe a “safe person.” These were the responses:
A person who accepts me just like I am.
A person who loves me no matter how I am being or what I do.
A person whose influence develops my ability to love and be responsible.
Someone who creates love and good works within me.
Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow.
Someone who increases love within me.
Someone I can be myself around.
Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the inside.
Someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.
Someone who allows me to become the me that God intended.
Someone who helps me become the me God sees in me.
Someone whose life touches mine and leaves me better for it.
Someone who touches my life and draws me closer to who God created me to be.
Someone who helps me by like Christ.
Someone who helps me to love others more. (Safe People, Dr. Henry Cloud)
Do you see how such people can help you live bravely? These are the kind of people that make it easier to face your vulnerabilities. Make it easier for you to give up your fears that you use to control your world. Make it easier for you to stop trying and trying and trying.
So how do you find such people in your life? That is a million dollar question because we’ve all been hurt by people we thought wanted the best for us.
Ideally we’d like to find such people amongst our church family. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10. But Jesus did teach in the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds that weeds (unsafe people) would be allowed to stay in the church family until that final day when Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn. Matthew 13:30. We can complain and whine and blog about how hypocritical and how broken the Church is. The fact remains that Jesus told us these broken people would worship side-by-side with us.
So how do you find such people in your life? One good option still is the church family. It still is a good option because there is also wheat (safe people) there. The ones who will be stored in the barn. Jesus taught us that too. There are some good people to be found among your church family. Check out a small group your church offers for possibilities.
Another option you may want to check out is support groups. These are full of honest and broken people who have some of the same fears you do. And they always provide a place for safety. Of course there is still risk here. Broken people are a part of support groups. You can’t get away from them. But there are good people there too.
Here are some values to look for to find safe people. Of course, I’m quoting Dr. Henry Cloud here.
Acceptance and grace
Mutual struggles, although they do not have to be the same ones
Both parties need other support systems as well to avoid the same kind of toxic dependency on each other that led to the problems
Familiarity with the growth process where both parties have “entered in” and have some knowledge of the process so as to avoid the blind leading the blind
Mutual interest and chemistry, a genuine liking
An absence of “one-up and one-down” dynamics
Both parties in a relationship with God
Honesty and reality instead of “over spiritualizing”
An absence of controlling behavior (Safe People)
Make this into a list. How do the people in your life line up?
I have two rocks in my life. And they are beautiful rocks. Neither of them are my husband. He is the biggest part of me but he is not my stabilizer. It is these two friends of mine who give me my safety.
I met Kari during that short window of time I worked at a workout gym my first year of college. We had the low responsibility of receptionist which we could handle with our college studies. That also meant we weren’t scheduled together very often. It was a month or two of working there before we met and shared part of a shift together. Both of us said to each other, “Finally, I’ve been hearing so much about you and everyone tells me we are going to like each other.” That was true. We were fast friends. And still are. We met in 1983. This is the interesting thing about Kari. We really have so little in common other than our love for God and each other. She’s Catholic, I’m evangelical. She’s been married forever, I married late. She hardly dated, I dated a lot (she was with me through all of that). She’s back in Minnesota, I live in Virginia. And this may be the best part. She has never been a part of my ministry life. She has just always been there for me. There is a gift in that.
The other rock in my life is Nina. I met her just 3 months later. She was my assigned roommate for my first year of college. Poor thing. I went to a school that required all students who were under age 21 to live on campus. I started school at 20 after moving out of a single-family home I had rented by myself. Now I was forced to live in a dorm room with a floor full of 18-year old girls who had left home for the first time. It was a hard adjustment on me. I don’t think I ever adjusted honestly.
For the first semester my roommate never showed up. That was such good news. I had some space. I had some personal space. I quickly filled both closets and both dressers and both desks with my belongings. At least I had my own space. For the next semester a new student was assigned to my room. No one told me. I came back to campus from semester break at the last possible moment (which was after curfew again). When I came into the hallway I noticed the other girls watching me approach my room. Normally they just left me alone. It was only when I opened the door did I realize why. There was my new roommate Nina in her bed. She quickly woke up and apologized for moving in and taking up ¼ of her closet space with her stuff and making the bed with her bedding. This was our introduction. Thankfully Nina is the Saint of Kindness. Still. We bonded quickly. We met in 1984.
We proceeded to live together off and on for four times before she got married. She got married to a friend of mine whom she met while visiting me in Virginia. My “plan” worked! I introduced her to someone so she would move closer to me! She is here with me in Virginia and is always someone I can lean on. And she always makes me kinder.
I know I could not be the brave person I am today without these two. I could not wrestle with God or make the brave decisions I’ve made in my life without them. They know me and hold me.
May you also find such people in your life. They are an important part of brave living.