Day 21: Safe Spaces
Ruth 2:11-14 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.” At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.”
Ruth 3:1-3: “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight, he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking.
Acts 2:44-47 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j]— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Song: Sacred Space
Happy Twenty-First Day of Thanks Everyone!
Today, we give thanks for safe (and sacred) spaces. It is always a blessing to know when one has a safe space in which to go. There, one can share the real truth about oneself, one can get comfortable with her flaws, one can tap into her fullest potential, and one can dream the biggest dreams and imagine them coming into fruition.
Recently, I was watching a sermon from a series called “Birthing Something Great.” The pastor, John Hannah, begin to talk about how a person needs to be in a safe space in order to “conceive” a baby or a great idea and walk into her fullest potential. He began to mention the four characteristics of identifying a safe space. He says that space will confirm you, push you, celebrate you and encourage your crazy faith. Pastor Hannah also admonished one to never sit down in a space to birth unless you know it is a safe space. It was a blessing to hear him say these things because it confirmed the panoramic view of my life in which I’ve been and have prided myself on being a safe space for so many people. In every retreat I have ever facilitated, I start by saying, “I want all of you to know that this is a safe space. You can show up as your authentic self with no judgement here.”
Most people are very uncomfortable with my statement because they are never sure if I’m being honest. (They learn later just how serious I am with what I’ve said because I show up as my true self too.) Also, most of the retreat participants have never been in a space where they can be honest and show their true selves to people. I always tell them, “I prefer to see and know the real you so that I know what I’m working with.” It makes me cringe to think that people feel as though they have to lie about something that they’ve done or who they are. I can’t imagine living like that on a daily basis. How can someone successfully show up in a situation if they are only presenting two-thirds of themselves, and not being able to address, fix, and better the other one-third of themselves? Even if I don’t agree with or receive what someone has to say in a session, the person’s thoughts and the words he/she speaks come directly from his/her heart and exposes (will expose) who he/she is. Who he/she is and me knowing who he/she is are very important to me.
The Pastor used the biblical text of the moment Mary, who has just received the news that she will conceive the Savior of the world, Jesus, goes to see her cousin Elizabeth, who is also six months pregnant. Elizabeth is much older and was thought to be barren by her community. It was a great example of an older, mature woman pouring into and blessing a younger one. Elizabeth speaks blessing over Mary, confirming who Mary is when she shows up. Before Mary even speaks, Elizabeth celebrates Mary’s obedience and willingness to carry Jesus into the world. Elizabeth encouraging Mary, a teenage mom, who would normally be frowned upon because she is unmarried and pregnant. Elizabeth allowed Mary to stay with her for three months, until Mary completed her first trimester (and was out of the danger zone of most of the spontaneous abortive activity) and Elizabeth gave birth to her son. I can imagine all of the encouraging moments between the two women. As Elizabeth was pouring into Mary, I’m sure she had to quiet doubts and fears, like I do with my teenage or first-time moms. Elizabeth had to model what to do and what not to do to have a successful first trimester and pregnancy.
I reread their encounter and examined my life and purpose. It touched my heart to know that I have been an “Elizabeth” to so many. Throughout the years, as I have created safe spaces for women and men alike, these same people felt comfortable enough to share, for the first time in their lives, about a trauma or abuse that had occurred to them and work through it. Sometimes people have shared their wildest dreams, not leaving out a single detail, and were encouraged to pursue them to the fullest extent. (And yes, I always follow up to see if they’ve carried things through to completion.) It was in these spaces that many were able to tell the truth about themselves and recognize or highlight strengths, flaws, and weaknesses. It was also in these safe spaces that they trusted and allowed me, an older, mature person to confirm, push, encourage and celebrate them. I’m so honored and privileged to create those safe spaces for myself and others.
The Pastor’s example of Elizabeth and Mary is not even the first time we see this beautiful rendition of the creation of a safe space by a wise, mature woman or man to a younger one in the Bible. In the scriptures for today, we see how Boaz and Naomi, elders within their community, create a safe space by confirming, pushing, and encouraging Ruth to be part of their community and culture. Naomi also allows Ruth to dream and aim for better possibilities for herself as Naomi teachers Ruth how to win Boaz. In the other scripture detailing the Acts church, we witness how a safe space is created where the entire community of believers make sure that there is no lack among themselves. They celebrate each other during meals and through their worship. They encourage each other to stay faithful to their beliefs and evangelize their faith to grow in members.
So, are you an “Elizabeth?” Do you create safe spaces for others, especially the younger generation, to “conceive” their projects, ideas and purpose? If not, why? What’s stopping you? I believe that it was only as Elizabeth poured out, served, and modeled the way for Mary, she too was able to safely “conceive,” what she had to birth, although she was considered “high risk.”
Today, as we give thanks for safe spaces to confirm, push, celebrate and encourage oneself or others, I invite you to donate your time and financial resources to the Birthing Project USA: The underground Railroad for Life, https://www.birthingprojectusa.org/. We are a sister and brotherhood whose mission for the last 30+ years has been to ensure the safe births and survival of babies of color. We have walked alongside teenage and first-time moms from conception until one year after the child’s birth to ensure that mommies and their babies are healthy and survive the first, critical year of life and parenthood. As you make your donation, the organization W4 will be matching all donations
Have a Great Day of Thanks.