Imagine for a minute that you are in your safe place. The one you run to when things go wrong, when you need comfort or escape. The one you go to when you get the worst news you can think of. Think of that place. Maybe it’s a person, a room, a niche of your own making. It probably makes you smile.
That’s not where hurt people from hard places go.
They go to That Place.
That Place is not warm or comfortable. That Place is a steel box of the mind. That Place is where you go to survive.
That Place is the panic room for the heart.
That Place is where you sever your soul from your situation.
That Place is where you shut down humanity.
And when you have gone to That Place, the stench never leaves you. It’s always there, marking you, striated through your spirit.
I know, because I’ve been there. It’s not a safe place, really. But it’s a known place. It’s where you can lock yourself up and pray that you live through the next onslaught and that maybe part of yourself will survive.
I know the cold fingers of fear that send me back to That Place. It happens less often now. But like a soldier with PTSD, sometimes a trigger sends me into an all-systems shut-down. Suddenly I find myself in automaton mode with my essence padlocking itself back into That Place.
Lord help you if you take me to That Place nowadays. Because now, away from the hard places, I see it for what it is.
It’s a place where love cannot live.
And that I cannot have in my life.
Because stepping away from that place is the bravest thing that a person can do. The hardest thing I have ever done. And no one is allowed to send me back.
And I will continue to call to the others. Come, come. Real safety is found in love. Not the perverted version they have seen, but real love. Love modeled on the One who loves first.
I know I was lucky. I knew that walking out of That Place was okay because I had previous relationships that were safe and loving. I walked back into arms that had already loved sweetly. And even that took everything I had. Most hurting people don’t have assurances like that. And their journey is all the more brave because of it.
Watching someone walk away from That Place, away from the hardness of the soul, the deadening that comes to those in hard places is difficult, too. They don’t know if they can trust your call. They don’t know if your words mean real love or more harm. They will go slowly and they will test everything.
At first, their steps are tentative, tiptoeing on shaky ground, unsure of how far away to journey. Quickly scurrying back. Being too far away from That Place is dangerous, even if away from That Place is where love lies. Journeying away from That Place is a huge risk.
It is a privilege, this watching and hoping and listening to the soft steps away from That Place.
But it is hard too, because each effort costs all the trust that they have. Each step is carefully measured. They count it out and go as far as they can and then the soul, it flies back in fear.
So they lash out and they pull away and they slam your fingers in the door in their rush to again lock themselves into That Place, the place where they know they can survive.
It is beautiful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. It is weeping joy. It is bleeding love.
Sometimes there are only enough steps to catch a glimpse of them, even as they turn to flee.
But one day, you watch and instead of rushing back to That Place, they stop. They say something real. They speak from the soul. The heart’s voice cracks from lack of use as they express what it has cost to be in That Place.
Sometimes there are enough steps to be able to connect with another person. It is the most exhilarating-exhausting effort that exists. It is often more pain than joy, feeling the heat of love again.
And then they are gone.
And the process begins again. And you hope that next time, they will stay a little longer. Feel the love more than the loss.
What an honor to be part of it, to watch the scythe bite through rusted defenses as they fight their way free. It is breaking and building in the same moment.
We had one of those moments tonight. So much pain. So much love.
Oh my girl, my fellow traveler, my sweet one. Please keep walking. Please keep fighting. Please keep telling me your heart.
I will always be ready to listen.