After the recent election, I began to hear about “safe spaces,” primarily on college campuses for students who might feel marginalized and fearful. I really hadn’t paid attention to that term before, but with three kids in college currently (and two who live in the Northeast and were personally quite disappointed in the election results), I was well aware of all the angry protests around them. What I began to realize is that “safe” in this context really means agreement on how we view the world. When did we lose the ability to offer concern and emotional support to someone with whom we might not agree with politically? Ideally, a family should be the perfect example of a group of folks who are connected through blood and therefore, willing to go to bat for one other in hard times just because related not because they agree about everything.
In my own family, we’ve found ourselves disappointed at times by decisions our college-aged kids have made. Whether a secret tattoo that was revealed about a day and half after it happened or a $300 speeding ticket (95 in a 70!!!) that we found out about within an hour of it being received, “safe” in these instances meant that our sons knew telling us something we wouldn’t like wouldn’t sever their relationship with us. We were disappointed but not punitive or shaming about either event. Our relationship with them means more to us than liking every choice they make.
As someone who doesn’t feel some of the fears many are feeling post election, I have no desire to minimize or discredit those very personal concerns. I don’t know what I don’t know. My opinions and beliefs are a byproduct of my life experiences thus far so who am I to question why someone else landed in a different spot? Regardless of differing views, I do want to be a “safe space” by being an empathetic person as much as possible even about viewpoints I don’t embrace. I can still understand what it means to be fearful even if I might be fearful of something different.
The church is a family as well with a group of folks “related” through the blood of Jesus. Obviously, the church and believers should always be safe places for those who feel marginalized. That means we have to step into relationships and situations that might push our buttons a bit in order to connect with people. And maybe those friendships might give us a glimpse into perspectives that differ from our own.