WORDS THAT STICK: II.

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Safety, for me, is love.

I’ve been a big fan of So Worth Loving for the past several years. They’re a clothing brand/social movement centered around the message that you are worthy of love. God used this company to shine some serious light in my life in high school, and SWL has meant so much to me ever since. Last week, So Worth Loving released their very first short film! To say I was pumped is a major understatement. What Does It Mean Part I touched me in so many beautiful, meaningful ways. One of my favorite lines came from Emily:

Safety, for me, is love.


This world is overflowing with unsafe places and people. Online anonymity spurs hateful comments toward real humans on the other side of the screen. Students wonder if today is the day the gun violence epidemic arrives in their classroom. Sexual violence is way more prevalent than we’d like to believe. Bullies say and do some seriously horrific things. LGBTQ+ adolescents are kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets.

And on top of that, we face dangers that don’t necessarily activate our fight or flight response, but are nonetheless so toxic. Judgment, rejection, gossip, a decision from a person or group that we are too much or not enough. How often do we honestly feel physically, emotionally, and relationally safe to be our complete, authentic selves?

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit feeling unsafe in my shoes. My best guess is that it’s a product of both my own faulty thinking and the harsh, judgmental times we live in. There have been too many moments when I’ve berated myself for speaking up or kept parts of my story hidden away. I think we’ve all had experiences of “unsafety” with certain people or in certain spaces.

Safety of any kind is such a rarity in this world of tweets and terrorism. And that’s why I think it’s one of the greatest forms of love we can give one another.

To sit across from a hurting friend and assure him that he hasn’t scared us off? To admire how loudly someone laughs when all she usually hears is criticism and harsh jokes? To create spaces where people feel seen, known, accepted, and valued, exactly as they are? To share our own imperfections so others know they can show us theirs? What a breath of fresh air this kind of love can be!

Creating safety doesn’t mean we never have hard conversations or that we don’t screw up and hurt some feelings. It does mean that we let people be vulnerable and share all the ugly parts of their stories and selves that they didn’t want anyone to see. And when they do, we don’t judge or criticize or blame or run away or betray trust. We sit. We stay. We say, “Thank you for telling me.” We affirm that their feelings and failings do not define them; we point out the light in them, we use mirrors to reflect it back. We remind them that they are not alone. We tell them that we love them; and by making them feel safe, we prove that we do.

Safety isn’t always easy or even comfortable, but love isn’t meant to be those things. It’s meant to be brave. It’s meant to be radical. And one of the bravest, most radical charges we can take up in this hurting, broken world is to be safe people for others.

WILD.

Version 2

A while ago, my suitemate and I volunteered with Auburn’s big day of service. We went to an older lady’s house and helped her out. One of our tasks was to remove as much overgrowth as we could from the fence surrounding her backyard.

It took about 30 seconds for us to see that we’d just undertaken an enormous and impossible challenge. This overgrowth was everywhere: between her fence and the neighbor’s, behind her fence in a jungle, wrapped around the fence in tight coils, encroaching into the backyard. There were plants of all shapes and sizes, and most of them were prickly (like the you-thought-this-job-was-tough-I’ll-make-it-tougher barbed wire on the fence). Time constraints weren’t the issue; this overgrowth was so big and overwhelming that it seemed quite permanent.

As we worked, I was struck by how these vines and wild plants had completely taken over. They weren’t just rooted in the ground, easy to cut down and take away. They had wrapped around the fence in the most complex, intricate ways. Many of them had sprouted little tendrils that wrapped even tighter around each other. We encountered the same conundrum that Greek heroes encountered with the Hydra and Dwight on The Office encountered with the red wire: Once you start to hack away at a problem, it seems like it’s getting bigger and more difficult. That was what these vines were like. All our efforts to remove them just showcased their unwillingness to be removed.

Our work reminded me of a chapter I’d just read in Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. My small group had discussed “Chapter Three: God of the Wild” just that week. I’d been so touched by this chapter that I had started blabbing out my heart to them, these girls I’d only known for two months. Chapter Three addresses a splendid duality beyond comprehension: God is wild in power and wild in love. God is big, full, complete, in control, and so glorious; He is also compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and caring in the details.

He is wild because He is consecrated and set apart and worthy of our absolute adoration and praise. But what makes Him most wild is that these things do not separate us from His love or protection… Our Father isn’t just holy beyond all other things and worthy of our holy fear; He is also wildly loving toward us (page 69).

I saw those vines wrapped around every nook and cranny of the fence and started to see more clearly: That’s it. That’s the way God’s love is wrapped around every part of me.

Sometimes, it’s easier for me to focus on the first part of God’s wildness and forget the second. It can be easier to praise God for His power, His might, His glory, how God He is and how small I am in comparison. This feels like honest worship, like humility, and to some extent, it is. But true humility doesn’t make you feel like God is so holy that He must be mad at you for your failures; true humility is found in the arms of the Father who will always welcome you home no matter how many times you’ve failed. It’s shame, not humility, that makes us want to run from God; it’s humility that pushes us deeper into His unfailing, grace-giving, all-covering, holy, forgiving love. When I think He’s such a powerful, perfect King that He couldn’t possibly love a sinner like me, I’m actually not recognizing Him for who He is; when I thank Him for His amazing amazing amazing love, then I am humble in truth. God is love, according to 1 John 4:8. If we treat our sin like it’s too big for Him to love, that’s not humility; it’s ignoring His character and missing out on another reason to praise Him.

His love isn’t small. It’s not tame. It’s not powerless. It is absolutely wild. It is wrapped around every piece of every person like those vines were wrapped around that fence. He loves not because of anything we do, but because it’s in His very nature. We exist by breathing; God exists by loving. It’s who He is and what He does, tied together in one. If God is big and powerful and holy, then it follows that His love must be, too.

That is wild. Not to view God as so perfect and amazing that He’s probably mad at us and disappointed in us, but to view God as so perfect and amazing that He loves us in a perfect, amazing way. That is wild. That is walking in freedom from shame. That is embracing grace. That is true living. That is worth and value we cannot find on this earth. That’s God: totally, completely, brilliantly, graciously, wildly in love with us. And all this wildness just makes Him even more glorious and worthy of praise.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19