A safe distance

Ever felt like you’re observing what’s happening before your eyes and you have no permission to participate?

I’ve felt like that quite often if I’m honest. From seeing an overwhelmed parent telling their child off in the supermarket, to seeing a friend make bad choices or even having someone close tell me something about myself that I just can’t resonate with. In the first scenario there’s definitely no permission and there’s probably nothing to be gained by intruding there. In the second, there may seem no permission but I’m sure, more than we know, our friends would love some wisdom and encouragement when life gives them hard choices. And the third instances, well this can be the trickiest; when someone you trust is trying to encourage you in who you are or what you should do and it seems to gloss over you, how do you step into that truth and let it sink deep within?

In life I think there are many areas in which we can keep a “safe” distance. With friends and family seems the most obvious, so maybe we should start there. You see, someone can know everything about us and us about them, we can have what seems like a very intimate relationship, but if knowledge is the foundation then things can feel so passive and unemotive. I can know everything about someone’s comings and goings, friends and dreams, but if I don’t do anything actively to spur them on, challenge them, help them grow – what’s the point of knowing all that? All the more, if I’m not willing to let those who know me so well, speak into my life, (my real circumstances and not just some abstract opinions, like “I really don’t think you should watch as much Grand Designs as you do”) surely I’m missing out on the blessings and wisdom that come from true friendship.

I think, generally speaking, those that are closest to me aren’t necessarily the ones I know every little thing about (some of my best friends I only ever see a couple of times a year). Across the board they seem to be those who, when we’re together, take a real interest in who I am and what I do and how I can be even better. They’ll question my ideas, encourage what I’m good at, ask about my motives and care about my wellbeing.

In a world that can so easily find out our age, profile picture, contact details, places of work and favourite hobbies, we now know that information isn’t what true relationship is all about – it’s not even half of the story.

So often it can be so tempting to over share in a new friendship or relationship. Ever had that? Before you know it, that new person at a social gathering knows your whole life story. It feels weird doesn’t it? They know all the facts, but they’ve walked none of it with you, and probably have no intention of doing so in the future. Just me? I believe this odd feeling is there because we are called into far deeper, more meaningful relationships than the ones that seem so easy to access.

As a Christian I believe that I should live life in all its fulness, and try to live a life inspired by Jesus. Whether you believe similarly to me or not, maybe you can resonate with the idea that we should be more willing in life to love beyond what is expected of us, to care more than seems sensible and the invest in those we know probably won’t invest in us in the same way. 

It’s ridiculously comfortable to begin with, when we have ‘easy’ friendships, ones that all seem to give us happiness and fulfilment; but, after a while, they can seem dry and fruitless. Growing relationships is like any kind of growing, it takes nurturing and investment; it can mean we won’t see anything bloom for a long time, but it builds something beautiful.

I believe we are called to love beyond our comfort zones.

I believe our love for others in this world should open our hearts, our diaries, our front doors, our purses even. So often I find myself caught by the presumption that my most fulfilling friendships are the ones I get the most out of. 

It’s about time I humbled myself with radical measure, don’t you think? 

Why isn’t someone I don’t know well yet not worth my time? Why shouldn’t I share my life experiences to benefit that person who seems to be in a situation I resonate with? Why shouldn’t I, as a Christian, choose to mentor someone – sharing what God has taught me so far, and consistently praying for that person and their life?

Going beyond the ‘expected’ boundaries of love and care for others can be uncomfortable – it can require of us honesty, vulnerability, sacrifice and willingness.

Sometimes to love others as best we can, it requires us to hurt with them, to cry with them even. As a follower of Jesus, I think this is a non-negotiable I am slowly being taught. How can I profess about this remarkable God of mind, but presume that it is not necessary for me to aim to do all that he did.

Jesus wept.

That’s the shortest verse in the bible, but wow, what power it has. The son of God, who knew the future, who knew the beautiful destination of heaven that Lazarus was destined for – this same man wept at the death of his friend. Jesus empathised and embraced the hurt of his friends as his own.

I’ve heard it said that to feel the best of emotion this world has to offer, we must be open to it’s worse – to the fullness of feeling our heart can fathom.

In this life, I believe, we have no right to stand on the outskirts of a hurting world and shout in. We have no place behind people’s backs to say what we think they should or shouldn’t do. I believe, we are called to get muddy – to join our brothers and sisters in the mess of life and take part in each other’s growth, hurt, joy and journeys. It builds beautiful friendships, sustains fulfilling marriages and produces magnetic communities.

C.S. Lewis (one of my favourite writer – ever) once wrote:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I feel that’s a pretty good quote to end on, so I’ll leave it there for you to think and maybe pray about areas in your life where vulnerability and sacrifice might just help you to unlock something so much deeper, more meaningful and fulfilling that you’ve ever experienced.

Let’s cut through the ‘safe distance’ and life with our hearts on the edge.



2 thoughts on “A safe distance

  1. Sarah- just the post I needed to read right now ! I feel challenged in a good way especially by your line ‘I believe we are called to love beyond our comfort zones’ plus ‘to feel the best of emotion this world has to offer, we must be open to it’s worse’. The whole idea of loving even when it hurts to care so much about someone is definitely a Christ like characteristic!! Makes me think of the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 which talks about love not being self-seeking, but always perservering, and ultimately how love never fails. x
    p.s. which cs lewis book was that??


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