Of Moths and Kitchen Lights

Yawning and stumbling toward the kitchen, I flipped on the overhead light. A big moth startled me by flying into my face from where it had been waiting on the wall.

Where did the moth head? Straight for the sun, the flame: the kitchen light.

Such a simple, common phrase…”as a moth drawn to a flame.” But my mind has been busy–busy thinking about relationships: what I’ve done well, what I’ve done poorly, what I could do better in the future.

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the paper-thin wings of a moth are no competition for a literal flame, for fire, even one as small as a candle. In fact that moth, reaching for what it hopes is freedom and sunlight, is going to be shocked to find itself instead in Southern Baptist hell.

What’s my flame? What draws me but can be unsafe for me?

Childhood should teach us we are loved, we are enough exactly as is, building in us a feeling that we belong in and are Safe in the world. The only time I felt truly safe was when my grandma’s arm was around me, sitting by me on the couch at her house. So I grew up craving that missing sense of safety in my life–some version of being accepted, loved, held. That led to my view that some sort of connection between people was all that was needed to be safe. But if commonality is the entire base, that leaves plenty of room for disrespect and misunderstanding–running both directions.

With “sameness” as a definition of safe, all another person needed to be was reliable like a coffee maker or a toaster. Or that moth’s flame. Someone I could depend on to act a certain way in a certain circumstance. Or like my bedroom door where I have to lift and turn the handle to close it–I know this about it. LIkewise, knowing the good and the glitches about people became enough. Familiar and Safe became synonyms. But are they?

What if, as my Favorite Mental Health Provider, my therapist says, I was Awake in my life? Seeing everything for exactly what it is? Observing, gathering information? Making decisions on that basis? My definition of Safe would have to change. Being drawn simply to what is familiar wouldn’t work for the moth, would it? The flame is familiar. The familiar draws the moth’s fragile wings toward itself, yet ultimately toward death.

What does Safe start to shape up as, while I’m walking through my life, watching for words and deeds to match? What kind of person would earn my trust enough to be considered “safe harbor” in a storm of life proportions?

The definition of Safe carries the sense of shelter, of protection–the opposite of the moth’s flame. What should it look like for me to be able to trust someone when I’m vulnerable, and them trust me?

Safe people want to See the other–they’ll be learning who each other is, what each other stands for. There will be intent–the intent to See, to Know.

They will want to Hear the other–thoughts, feelings, questions, future hopes. Even doubts.

Someone who is Safe truly wants to be be a “home” of welcome, even when there are differences.

The definition for me of Safe seems simple, yet can be harder to find–a reciprocal friendship of those who truly desire to See and be Seen, to Hear and be Heard. And the Safe space to do so.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve stifled my voice to avoid conflict, and that ends up being soul-killing. It creates the opposite of Safe. Without being able to equally share, a conversation becomes a monologue. Our boat gets swamped in the harbor, our wings get burned in the flame.

Who are you a Safe home for? Who is for you? What does that look like?

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