I think the defining characteristics of being a closed person are numbness and denial. When you are numb you don’t feel anything and when you feel nothing, you never get hurt. And even if you do get hurt, you deny it because that would mean people can in fact affect the way you live your life. I lived that way for almost two years. The conversation went like this: John Q would say something hurtful, only to realize it a few moments later and apologize. I would not acknowledge the apparent wound and shrug it off as if John Q could not possibly hurt me with mere words, only to further alienate myself from John Q because of my inability to admit hurt. Numbness and denial work as a potent concoction to allow you to not feel hurt with the unfortunate side affect of feeling nothing, ever. Thus, when you want to feel joy or love or peace, you can’t because you are numb. Thus, one legitimately asks the question if you are actually alive or if you are simply a zombie?
When I came to the place of realizing I was a zombie, I knew I needed to tear down my carefully placed wall of protection, reject the numbness and finally admit that I was a weak and broken person who needs Jesus and others. I realized I needed to reveal myself to Jesus who already saw me as I was and to my community that wanted to know the real me; but that is difficult. Yet, after several years, one helpful exercise has come forward and I would like to pass that on to you. The exercise that has helped me let myself be known to others is to simply be honest. If someone hurts me, I tell them. If I prefer something, I let that be known. If something is wonderful or terrible, I try my best to let that be known in a socially acceptable way.
As I have learned simply to be honest, it has allowed me to let others know me as well as creating more than a few awkward conversations and moments. I am not going to lie and say that “just being honest” is easy because it is not. After almost 7 years, it is still not easy. You need a good sense of how you are feeling as well as the social astuteness to know what to say and when to say it. You also need to learn to be brutally honest with yourself because self-deception is real. We are very good at telling ourselves something is not important when it really is and this is why we must invite Jesus into our lives to be the ultimate truth teller.
Letting yourself be known begins with honesty with others and with ourselves. We need Jesus to be the leader of this process. When we begin, we will experience pain, but the fruit will be a level of vulnerability that allows you to truly be known by God, yourself, and others. It is worth the pain. In part three, I will give some very practical tools in ways to go even deeper in vulnerability.Comments
I still remember it like it was yesterday: I was in Estes Chapel at Asbury Seminary listening to Chris Heuertz preach and he said one of the most profound things I had ever heard. “Vulnerability is not spewing your whole life on every person you meet; vulnerability is allowing people to be so part of your life that if they wanted to hurt you, they could.” Game changer.
I had come from a very hard season in life and for the sake of survival I had become an Island unto myself. Yet, when I was in a community of believers that was safe and truly loved me, I did not know how to get off of my island. So I began the journey of becoming vulnerable and I still remember the moment I cracked. During a time of prayer, I confessed to my friends that I was a hypocritical, self-loathing, porn watching pastor and seminarian. I was broken and I could not do this Christian thing without them. The unconditional love and acceptance was more than I ever dreamed of, but it was quickly replaced with the shame of having “spilled my guts” and with learning what it actually means to be vulnerable in community. That’s why Chris’s words were so profound.
In the years following that prayer meeting and subsequent chapel, being authentic and vulnerable in community, work, dating relationships, and family has been difficult. It has been trial and error of learning what to say, how much to say, and when to say it, while simultaneously trying to let my actions and accomplishments speak for themselves. My thinking was if I accomplish a lot, people will not see my vulnerability as weakness. I could never go back to not being vulnerable because I had never felt more human, but vulnerability is viewed as weakness in our culture. I have been told I am less manly, will be eaten alive if I show my weakness, shamed for caring, etc etc. I responded by showing I was strong, a man’s man, and selectively choosing who I was vulnerable with. Yet, I am not sure that was the best response.
Henri Nouwen in his book In the Name of Jesus says “the great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” In my weakness, Christ is strong. In my vulnerability, Christ is glorified because the attempts of the enemy on my life have been destroyed and it is clearly shown that Christ has done the work. Vulnerability is essential to the Christian journey because it destroys shame and brings honor to Christ and His work. But what does that look like in a world that values strength, accomplishment, and perfection? In the coming posts, I will unpack a few things I have learned about vulnerability as well as a few resources that have helped me simultaneously become vulnerable while surviving in a world that isn’t.Comments