Safe Spaces

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A friend once asked me if where I was serving at the time was a safe space for me. He knew that at one time it had not been. He wasn’t concerned about a gunman posing danger to my life (although these days that’s a very real fear). He wasn’t concerned about the neighborhood my church was in. He wasn’t concerned about my commute to the church from my home and back. He was concerned about my emotional well-being and whether or not my environment was life-giving or soul-crushing. That is a question worthy of some reflection and consideration- whether or not where you serve is a safe space for you and for others.

Every year around graduation season, I also ask that question as I consider the various relationships in my life. I suppose it’s because this time of year reminds me of those who were once in my life, but are no longer present. So when I look at the people in my life, with whom I share not just my time but also my journey, periodically I have to ask if they each serve as a safe space. Can I share personal struggles and insecurities without fear of judgement? Will they celebrate my successes or will they look down on me like I’m somehow less worthy when they experience their own successes? Will they constantly compete with me or continue to try to one-up me? Will they use the ‘friendship’ to make themselves look good or build their platform, and then drop me when someone else serves them better? These are valid questions since I’ve had all of the above experiences.

I once had a ‘friend’ say to me, in a season of extreme uncertainty, “Yeah I asked the Lord why you got Natasha sitting in the house?” I was like wow 😳. She didn’t seem to realize that it was grace, mercy, and God’s will that allowed her to be called into a denomination where graduating from seminary right into full-time employment was the norm. But I suppose to her I was less gifted, less skilled, and less worthy ‘sitting in the house’ waiting on the AME Church to do something with the credentials they required me to have for ordination. The irony is that if I’d known how busy I’d be today, I would have shown some appreciation for that time of uncertainty.

In hindsight she was not a safe space, and that’s been true for a number of others. While we all know that I am no doormat, it does take me time to let go of people I really should deem unsafe. I suppose it’s because part of my gift and calling is to see people as God sees them. By nature I am an encourager. Perhaps that is why it seems God has taken it upon Godself to do the removing. It may appear to me that they have gone ghost, but only God knows how that relationship could be a threat to God’s plan and assignment for my life.

As I engage in my somewhat annual audit of my friendships, I no longer spend time trying to figure out the reasons behind the absences. I have just learned to value the relationships that are meaningful, and to make sure I am consistently a safe space for the people that God has allowed to remain.