Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself …’ ~C.S. Lewis
My second graders and I filed across the playground to music class. Shadron reached for my hand, and I asked how his day was going. “Better than I thought,” he said. “I was worried I wouldn’t like gross turkey at lunch.”
I had to think for a minute before remembering the morning intercom announcement: roast turkey.
Shadron — with the tender soul and melt-your-heart eyelashes — had worried all morning and hadn’t said a word. But when invited to speak, he didn’t hesitate to tell me his fear.
He never thought some people might think worrying about lunch would be considered insignificant. (Are you kidding?!) And he wasn’t old enough to realize what the announcement likely was. He was simply safe to be himself. He knew he could be honest and would be heard.
Being safe space is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And it’s one of the most humbling privileges of being a follower of Christ.
It means we are first and foremost hearers. Not listeners — hearers. It means we’re approachable. It means there’s no such thing as a “stupid” question. It means we laugh with someone, never at them. Grieve with, never pity.
We don’t diminish someone’s story, their moments, because they’re still searching for Truth — or struggling to live out that truth faithfully. How could we? “We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread,” wrote Martin Luther.
Blythe Hunt calls it “holding space.” It’s not a new idea, but her explanation is grace:
Holding space is providing shelter for another to simply be, to offer safety for the vulnerability of someone fulfilling the purpose of their heart. Whether that purpose is teaching, nursing, raising children, creating, grieving, pursuing, waiting, fighting, dying, or sleeping. Holding space is the steadiness of presence expressed in unconditional love and devotion. Holding space is providing a shelter of peace, hope, and steadfastness.
May you have eyes to see how you can be safe space for another. And may you never take for granted those who have offered you safe space.