A couple of weeks ago I sat down with a friend for a long awaited catch-up session. It was only supposed to last an hour and a half but it didn’t. We sat for four hours telling stories and sharing memories. Our eyes watered as we sipped on our glasses of wine, forked down some of our favourite dessert and shared about the Lord’s workings in our lives. I hadn’t expected to be as vulnerable and as open with her about my journey as I was that evening. I thought I wasn’t ready and it’s true that I wasn’t. Except, who ever is!? The darkness, the joys, the trauma, the pain and tribulation; words came pouring out of my mouth as I spoke the truth to this woman I had known all of my adult life. It was scary and refreshing, uncomfortable and freeing at the same time. It left me naked and exposed.
As I drove home that evening I still questioned the decision to open up even though I trust this woman. What would she think of me? How do you dare to walk someone to the foot of the cross and show them the baggage you have chosen to lay down? How do you have the stomach to expose yourself, show them where you were hurt the most? And how you have hurt the most?
Vulnerability can be a tricky thing. Far be it from me to make it look pretty and trendy. No way! In my experience, vulnerability resembles desperacy, that “crying uncontrollably with snot coming out of your nose” kind of situation. It is ugly and unpleasant in its rawest and truest form. A close friend likened it to undressing before the people whose opinions matter to you most and showing them your underwear – your unclean mess of undergarments. Yet this process is absolutely necessary in the building of closeness with God. It is absolutely necessary for growth and for overcoming.
So it begs the question – who can we trust and who are those people with whom we can create safe spaces to speak our truth? Where there is vulnerability, there is an incredible need for wisdom and discernment, for trust on both sides. Vulnerability requires trusting and trustworthiness. Again, who can you trust and who are those people before whom you can expose your ugly? Who are those people you know can be real with you and edify you and tell you when you have missed a spot in the washing of your dirty laundry? Are we able to set aside our need to appear well constructed and put together?
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a timely read because, like Christian, I believe we carry burdens which the Lord is consistently and persistently urging us to lay at His feet. He relentlessly pursues us and provides helpers to spur us on especially when we encounter sorrow and despair. But sometimes we are too engrossed in our own suffering and public appearance. We busy ourselves with displaying the socially acceptable versions of weakness for good measure in faux vulnerability. We build walls and defences to shut out the pain not knowing that we are also shutting out healing and growth.
Pride gets in the way as we shudder at the thought of being exposed to both God and man. The self imposed pressure to seem like we have it all together weighs heavy on us! So we wear masks and hide our nakedness before God like Adam and Eve did, casting blame and not owning up to our faults, flaws and imperfections. The pride keeps swelling until we take a shape and form we ourselves cannot recognise, until we have lost a sense of who we are and tell ourselves the lie that everything is right as rain.
The Audacity of Vulnerability.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is humbling because it sometimes leaves you like an exposed nerve in the dead of winter. This sounds scary but it opens you up to the knowledge that there is a problem which must be dealt with in order to close up the wound and heal completely. Strangely enough, even though it is scary, well placed vulnerability carries with it triumph and freedom. Freedom from the self imposed and societal pressure to look and be perfect and seemingly have it all together.
Vulnerability unlocks the door to that true fellowship kind of reality. The surrender and submission kind of lifestyle; a kind of life that other people can relate and respond to and a condition of the heart which God cannot despise.
When we allow God to deal with us, to lead us to the right people – the ones with whom we can be our weakest selves and still be loved and edified by. When we are open to His poking and probing and allow ourselves to be naked before Him. When we confess our sins one to another. We are oiling the hinges of the door to growth and transformation. And when we have done the work, we can stand back, watch it open and walk through it. What a glorious thing it will be!