Aida at Forgetting the Former Things has a wonderful post called A Safe Place to Heal that speaks of the need for "safe havens" in each of our lives. I encourage you to read the entire post. She says, "The issues that are hurting us and causing us to lose sleep are never brought up for discussion. Instead, they are continually pushed down where given the right set of circumstances, they can erupt spewing hurt and leaving devastation all around us. I believe that institutions are really not the best place for individuals to experience healing. I believe healing is best accomplished in a relationship where the hurting person is befriended and can experience the comfort of travelling with someone who will support and encourage them in their journey to wholeness."
Unfortunately, in many churches, developing deep relationships is difficult to do. The whole Sunday morning setting is geared more towards lecture/monologue than to discussion/dialogue. Occasionally, you may find a Sunday School class where participation is encouraged, but for the most part, the schedule is designed for a lesson to be presented by the teacher with minimum input from the class. Some churches have started home cell groups or women's ministries or men's ministries to try and encourage fellowship, but often the leaders of the groups have an agenda to be followed that discourages rather than promotes relationship-building. What is the solution? Where can we go to develop the connections that all of us need?
When I was growing up, my mother was a stay-at-home mom like most of the women in our neighborhood. Mom had a group of ladies that she could get together with and confide in. These women took the time to experience life together- making candy or cookies, helping each other with sewing projects, listening to each others' daily frustrations and joys. They had TIME to do these things; they were available to bear one another's burdens. We are so busy today that we tend to put relationship-building at the bottom of our to-do list. I am able to be at home during the day, but all of my neighbors are away at work. My closest non-family friend works long hours during the week, first at her job and then doing volunteer work at the church, so she rarely has time to just get together and talk. My mother lives close, thank God, so I do have her to turn to when I have concerns or struggles that require a listening ear. But, of course, there are some things that are best not discussed with close family members. Where to turn then? I have struggled with severe depression for many years, and last summer, I was close to giving up on everything. I couldn't dump all my troubles on my mother, my husband was busy with his job and my friend was overwhelmed with her own life. So, in an act of desperation, I hired a "friend," also known as a professional counselor. Being able to talk about my deep hurts and knowing that I would be listened to was a great relief. But, isn't it odd to have to pay for a compassionate listener? Where is that safe haven?
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