Thoughts on safe spaces and how to survive the world.

I wake up early, turning my alarm off and scrolling to see that #HowToSurviveTwitter is trending. The irony of this isn't lost on me: these social networks designed to bring us closer together are actually enabling seeds of bitterness and division to flourish. My heart feels so heavy lately that I wonder if any words will wander in at all, for fear that this weight in my chest will suck the life right out of them. And I don't know if I can handle any more death. Some days, it feels like nothing is safe or sacred or beautiful anymore, and I know when I get these spirally feelings, the only sure solution is to unplug -- to immerse myself in scripture and an extra hot bath.

The truth is, I've spent most of my life trying to save myself. Trying to measure up. Trying to prove to you that I am worthy of love and that I'm not too much trouble. I've been trying to preserve my own way of thinking and acting and I hold onto my own comfort so tightly that my hands burn and blister raw. I've looked for safety in all the wrong places.

Isn't that all we want at the end of the day? Isn't safety the driving force behind everything we do, from buying organic eggs to dropping bombs?

Our craving for safety leads us to lock our doors, and fear bullies us into locking our hearts. What we don't realize when we throw away the key, though, is that we haven't only insulated ourselves from brokenness -- we've also actively refused the remedy for our anxieties.

He who wishes to save his life must lose it.

If there's one thing I know for sure now, it is that the answers are rarely as simple as we want them to be. An old friend told me recently that we are all being thrown into shades of gray, and I tend to believe that's true. So I'm trying not to be too prescriptive these days -- except when it comes to love. I believe that we can choose to love because God loved us first, and he so loved our world.

Love begins with the willingness to see. And when we open our eyes, we will see the brokenness of the world -- the differences that seem to refuse reconciliation. That same friend asked me the other day how we can choose to love each other in spite of these differences, and my only thought was that we simply hold onto each other, leaning into the tension together until all is reconciled. Because we know that the story ends at the table, with a family. We know that in the end, all will be made well. Fear has an expiration date. When we open up our eyes, we will see the beautiful parts of the world -- the evidence of redemption. And sometimes, we will see that the line between ugly and beautiful gets blurry -- like how the scorch of the forest fire makes the soil more fertile, or how a seed must be buried and break open in order for what's inside to reach the surface.

And we can choose to be kind, because there isn't one of us who isn't feeling more than a little buried and broken, and sometimes it is hard to know which way is up.

We can go out on a limb and tell the truth when someone asks us how we're doing. Sure, it might be shocking at first, but I'm learning that it is only when we lay down our own fig leaves of fine that other people will feel freed up to do the same. Instead of shouting our opinions from the rooftops of Facebook and Twitter, we can choose to boldly whisper our stories in the presence of friends. We can put down our devices long enough to learn the names of our neighbors and listen to the worries of our kids.

When we open our eyes and our ears and our hands, we begin to see that the issues we go on and on about affect real people on our own streets, and I’m convinced there’s something about looking into someone else’s eyes that shocks our own hearts into rhythm. When we crack open the doors to our own truths in the presence of others, we crack open the doors to healing. This is how we move from being spectators to the redemption story to being participants with Christ.

He looked us in the eyes wasn't afraid of us sticking our hands in his wounds.

I know that living this way, broken wide open, will hurt, and I can't tell you with any certainty that it will ever hurt less. That is the ugly-beautiful tension of it all: the surgeon's cut is always the first step towards surviving and healing.

This isn't meant to be a political statement. I just mean to say that I'm tired of being afraid. The days of injustice are numbered, but love lasts. And don't we all want to be part of something that lasts? I'm learning how to be a safe space for the people I love. And I'm learning how to find safe spaces in them as well. The world needs safe spaces. Because I know that if we are going to survive, it will be together.

With each other and for each other. And that will be enough.

A Letter to my Sisters {Five Minute Friday}

rp_five-minute-friday.jpg Dearest, most wonderful Sisters,

Professors had warned me that life outside of my small Christian college would be lonely. They told me that I would never again have that sort of genuine community. In many ways, though this past summer was joyous, it was also one of the loneliest times of my life. I was newly graduated and married, in a new town, and without a job or  a car. Even though family and friends were still close by, I felt heartbreakingly disconnected.

And then, I met Hannah. I don't even remember the circumstances of our introduction, but despite being half a world away from each other at the time, she made me feel right at home. And she invited me to a party one Friday night that would change not only my writing, but the heart that those words flowed from.

For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. -- Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

In the beginning, I must admit I was shamefully wary -- worried that whatever community I found here would be shallow at best, and that life and faith would be portrayed in a woefully unrealistic manner. I thought I would find snide perfectionism,  even competition, and I assumed that no one would want anything to do with life and God as I knew them.

I had beautiful community  in college, but the last semester was laced with hurt at the hands of someone I was hesitant to let in in the beginning. The wound was deeper than she knew and I struggled to let go of the pain and forgive.

But what I found here was everything humble and broken and life at its very best. What I found here was Jesus, again, between the lines of tweets and blogs and comments. I found genuine community to come alongside me in my joy and in my frustration. I found sisters encouraging each other in the wee hours, holding fast to the promises of God. And now there's hardly a Friday night when I don't weep over 140 characters of pure, unadulterated grace.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -- Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

It filled me past the brim. Oh, that we can take part in the restoration of souls. In the past six months, I have made friends that will be kept for a lifetime.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

You all are a gift. Living proof that the Lord knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Each of your lives are brimming with evidence of His goodness.

You, mothers, who saturate every character with love for your children. You, wives, who strive to serve your husbands in all that you do. You, who struggle deeply with insecurity and every word is infused with your need for Jesus. You are so important, so magnificent in all of your everyday grit and hope. I admire each of you so deeply for faithfully coming to the altar every Thursday and Friday night. You have made me better.

Jacqui, your testimony of loss and redemption has been such an incredible example to me. Your friendship has made my life so much richer. And Sarah, its hard to paint a more realistic picture of life than you have. I so deeply appreciate your willingness to be broken before the Lord and before others. Dana, your calling to open your home to the broken -- the orphan -- you are doing the Lord's work. And you write it all out with such an incredible, tangible passion. Lisa-Jo, all of this is really because of you -- your faithfulness has brought all of us together. Fridays on the internet are like holy ground.  None of this goes unnoticed. So if you haven't heard the words thank you in awhile, please don't ever forget that your willingness to put your life into such beautiful words has changed mine. 

I could literally go on forever -- there are over two hundred of you. Even as I punch these keys, salty liquid joy spills across my cheeks. I so wish there was space and time to mention each and every one of you by name.

Lisa-Jo wrote this week about how much our words matter. And its so, so true. Another professor of mine frequently spoke of the power of our communication. Our words hold the ability to image the Father.

Because in the beginning, God spoke, and all that is went through the process of becoming. And He's still in the business of collecting the dust and creating something beautiful. He's still the God of miracles -- each of you is evidence of that. He declared that everything He made was good, and He is singing goodness over you, even now. He's so in love with you.

Thank you. Thank you for taking me in, and for being so faithful to encourage me in this journey. Not a day goes by that my prayers are not for you, that Yahweh would come alive in you, that you would sense His presence in your lives and the lives of your families.

Surely, no eye has seen and no ear has heard -- but every Friday night, I see glimpses and hear whispers.

Psst! Obviously this took a little more than five minutes to put together, but it was so worth it. You are so worth it. Back in August, I didn't know the first thing about "linking up." If you're a blogger in search of constructive community, stop by Lisa-Jo's place. You'll find that Five Minute Fridays are about so much more than weekly writing prompts. Linking up this week with 200+ of the most fabulous, brave women on the planet.