#14 Offer Safe Space

People given space to self-reveal can more freely discover God’s will for their life

            You may have just rolled your eyes when you read the title because “safe spaces” are closely associated with complimentary therapy dogs and trophies for everyone.  I’m not talking about the kind of space where human egos are coddled and no one is ever challenged to do hard things.  When I think of a safe space, it’s a place where people are allowed to be where they are, rather than a place where people think they should be.  I have often said that this is the beauty of counseling, but I’m realizing that this can also be the beauty of friendship. 
      We often fail to offer people a safe space because we erroneously think they’re coming to us for the answer and that Christians should have the answer for life’s problems.  The only answer I really have is how to be reconciled back to God.  Jesus is that answer.  But beyond that, I don’t have a scripted journey where I know the next step for every individual.  I’m continually surprised at how much more God does when I’m committed to listening to people with engaged silence and thoughtful questions. 

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       A safe space allows people to be where they are.  It sounds simple enough but in practice can really challenge the “evangelist” or “truth teller” inside all of us.  People rarely sin because of an intellectual deficit or lack of knowing the truth.  But people more often sin because they doubt God will be more satisfying than what sin has offered them. So I spend less time trying to convince someone to move from the place they currently are and more time asking how they got there.  A big key to this is learning not to be shocked at people’s immorality of any kind.  Shock doesn’t create conviction, it creates shame and shame doesn’t lead to life giving repentance.  Shame more often creates empty promises to “do better” or “try harder” – the opposite of the gospel message.   
            Why does this matter? Because when someone knows it’s not YOUR voice trying to get them to change, move, or repent, then they are better able to hear the wooing invitation of the Holy Spirit into something deeper and more satisfying.  And if they sense it’s an invitation (rather than a twisting of the arm), then they may just take God up on His offer.  Their decision to follow Him will have more buy-in and personal buy-in is crucial to strong faith that lasts.

This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people.  Find the condensed list HERE.  These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues.  These blogs have been expounded upon with permission. 
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available
HERE.