The guy with the pony tail went to the platform.
This happened in Austin last week. I was attending the annual Sermon Seminar at the Austin Graduate School of Theology. I knew his name but had never met him. He is a former tenured college professor who left that world to start and run a Christian retreat center. Now he was on the platform telling us all about this center. I don't remember the details. What I do remember is that he said he wanted to build a "safe place." He referred to himself and to the pony tail. He said he finally stopped worrying about what other people were thinking. He then said something like, "Ministers need a safe place."
Well, he is right. But not just ministers. We all need a safe place. All of us.
I don't remember much about my early years. First--second--third grades. They are kind of a blur in my life's rear view mirror. One of the moments I do remember happened when I announced to a couple of people that I liked this girl (whatever that meant). When I said that, one of these people rushed to an adult to tell him. He began laughing. To this day, I can still remember blushing with shame, feeling like I had done something very silly or embarrassing. It sure didn't feel safe anymore.
Later on, I can remember having questions regarding sex. Not the "How does the plumbing work?" kind of questions. Rather, "What am I supposed to do with these desires, thoughts, urges, etc.? Who does a guy talk with?" At that time, I sure didn't know. Who is safe?
When I was at the University of North Texas, years ago, I stumbled upon a book by John Powell entitled, "Why am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?" I don't remember a thing about the book. But the title was unforgettable. The title still reminds me that we all need a safe place.
You might just think with me about the possibility of being a safe place for another person(s).
Safe people encourage. They don't say things to make you feel stupid. Haven't you been there? Several people are talking about a particular celebrity, athlete, musician, etc. You ask, "Who is she? I've never heard of her." Hopefully your friends are gracious and simply explain who the person is. (Safe people) But then some guy (or woman) has to say, "YOU DON"T KNOW WHO SHE IS? Where have you been? You need to get out more? I can't believe you don't know her!" (How small, unsafe, and terribly ungracious).
Safe people allow you to talk about what is on your heart. They will listen to your frustration, your anger, and your dislikes. They are not quick to dismiss what you are saying. Meanwhile, others get defensive and argumentative. They may tell you that, "You shouldn't feel this way."
Safe people will keep what you have said to themselves. They do not repeat to others what you have said in confidence. Do you know someone who you trust with your thoughts or with your feelings? I find that I tend to measure my words around people who talk about others in their conversations. I think it is because I suspect they may repeat what I have said when I am not around. It is so awkward to tell a friend something you are struggling with and in a week, the guy's wife has told a friend who then tells my wife. (This actually happened.) I felt disappointed and let down because I realized that I had to watch what I told this guy.
There is something to be said for having a "safe" friend and for being a "safe" person. Isn't there?