Have you read the first two parts of this series, "Staples" and "Pins and Needles"? Check them out right here.
Michael & I taking time to reflect on the decision we were about to make.
This whole series started with Brene Brown’s TEDtalk on vulnerability. But over the past few weeks, it’s become evident that it’s not just a scientist with a fancy name and my curiosity driving this journey.
Over the past several weeks, it's like I've (accidentally) heard 100 conversations about different aspects of vulnerability. And at the center of each of them, it's like God is saying:
"Hey, you know that thing you tell yourself you're good at? Well, love, you're not. And here's what it feels like to actually be vulnerable, and I know it feels empty, but I promise, it's not. Here's what my plan is for that feeling."
My husband and I cuddling our sick kitten, Penny.
I think keep vulnerability at an arm's length because I'm afraid of being afraid. Powerless. Directionless. For several years, I have prided myself as the girl whose life is an open book, but why is it that I change the conversation when it comes to things that make me feel useless?
This is the where my in-laws stayed for a few weeks leading up to our wedding. A few days ago was the first time Michael & I had been back since they had returned to Papua New Guinea 3 months ago.
The biggest thing God has been teaching me-- and the topic of this post-- is the difference between being vulnerable and feeling vulnerable.
I was made aware of this difference about two week ago, when my husband and I had to make a very hard decision on next steps. I won’t go into detail, of course, as my marriage (oh man, I love saying that) is my top priority. But just think of a time when there was a decision you needed to make, but “it would just be easier if things would just stay the same”. Throw in a few feelings like shame and uncertainty on top of a pile of being-a-disappointment-potential, and you’ll get the picture. We watched each other mourn as the thing we had suspected to be a solution, became ashes in our hands. The answer we had worked hard for became the undeniable thorn in our side. Words like “exposed”, “lost” and “tired” were frequented in our conversations. We didn’t have a choice but to feel vulnerable, split open and scared.
When we are being vulnerable, it’s a choice. We can choose when and where we open ourselves up, and sharing our story is often a way of freeing ourselves to begin again. This is a lot of what Another Paradise is about. I have shared my insecurities as a new wife, my mental health journey, the feelings toward watching my sister begin college (a stage of life that sorta kinda broke me) and the pains of feeling alone when I was “supposed to be” at home (check all these posts right here). I believe that this is a powerful testimonial tool and a way God redeems our brokenness by shining a greater light.
While both being and feeling can be used by God, feeling vulnerable is kind of like the way a natural disaster hits land: its sudden appearance feels stronger than anything we could have predicted, its force is unwieldy, and the damage inflicted is sickening. “Feeling” is a reaction to uncontrollable outside influences that leave us raw and without answers, and in sharing our story, we may feel shame and fear (regardless of support).
If being vulnerable is like a scalpel, feeling it is like a chainsaw.
If you are in the middle of a chainsaw massacre, or whatever you want to call it, please read this short letter from the beautiful heart of Maddie Joy. It's got a few things every broken-hearted soul needs to remember.
But there's something else I want to remind you:
If it is rejection you fear, and that if you reveal your true self, you are afraid that even God will turn his back on you, please remember this: Jesus models acceptance perfectly. Christians are generally pretty terrible at remembering this, and as humans, we often confuse acceptance with tolerance. However, the level of goodness within us, as Christ followers has no affect or indication of the holy good living within Christ. Below are three examples on how God is the master of acceptance:
Notes takes from a sermon given by Amy Miller at Life Center Spokane. Graphics are my own.
1. Jesus stops.
As an American always on a mission, I use the excuse "I'm too busy" way too often. I have the list of to-do's that are so important; and yet, Jesus came to earth with the highest mission ever, and He still stopped for people. To talk to them. To invest in their heart. To heal their brokenness.
But here's the catch: slowing down requires us to reflect, get past and even love ourselves enough to love and accept other people. It's something that takes time, intention and a whole lot of prayer. But as Christians, and decent human beings, it is our duty to love on people as Jesus Christ did.
2. Jesus sees.
It's human nature to want be known, seen and loved by others, but it's also within us to fear the opposite. Rejection. When Jesus came to earth, He showed that, in Him, there is no need for this fear. He welcomed Zaccheaus by name, the treacherous tax collector and thief, and stayed in his home; Jesus ventured through his country's enemy territory to share the good news with a five-time divorcee of Samaria (the longest story recorded in the Bible, by the way); Jesus rebuked the demons inside of a mad man tied to a tree. Jesus sees us, He knows us and yet--- He has ALWAYS loved us. No pretexts, no excuses, no shame.
His actions replaced culture's "should be's" with "mercy" and "grace".
3. Jesus is present.
Bob Goff, renowned author of "Love Does", is in the middle of a parachuting class when he hears a graphic story about what happens if his primary and secondary shoots don't release properly. "It's not the initial impact that will kill you", the instructor says, "sure, all your bones will break, but its the second bounce you got to be afraid of. Because where else can broken bones go, but out?" The only way to avoid this is to hold onto the grass when you first hit the ground.
Well... uh, ew.
For some odd reason, Goff still went on that plane that day and came down (safe and sound) with this thought:
When we're in the middle of a tremendous failure, and we've just experienced the initial impact, we're reeling, trying to put our lives back together. The second bounce comes when the people we thought would support us in times like this, are the ones that dismiss us with polite indifference. It's the second bounce that breaks us, rejected and alone.
So if you are the one who just hit rock bottom...
Hold tight to the ground, dear reader. I know this is a graphic portrayal, but please hold on so tight to the Word of the Lord. This world is just not ready to lose to you yet.
If you just watched someone hit the ground for the first time...
Please, oh please catch them before they hit the ground the second time. And please, don't leave them to heal on their own. Lower them to Jesus' feet. Show them extravagant grace. Love them in the middle of their mess.
When you are vulnerable, you are showing weaknesses to the world you are aware will lead to rejection, to the second bounce. But let us, as the Church, be a people that holds firm to the Gospel of Christ when we hit rock bottom, and let us also be a people who stops long enough to see the people who just got the worst news in the world and be there to catch them before the second bounce. Let us be a people that are present in the pain.
That's all I have for now. What'd you think? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to like and share on Facebook, too.
"What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful" - B.Brown