A few years ago, I was sharing with a friend of mine the different ways that I feel emotions. Generally speaking, I’m open-minded, and usually, I’m not afraid to tell people how I’m feeling. My friend, however, explained to me that she grew up in a family that didn’t talk about their feelings. When she had to handle an emotion, she did so in private, and she didn’t ask for help or tell anyone about it. She didn’t appear to think that was a “bad” thing either. That just seemed to be the deal in her life; it wasn’t a “problem” or anything like that, but I don’t know that living like that the best way to live our lives. One just doesn’t “talk about their emotions, Caitie. If you’re sad, get over it. That’s life. That’s how it goes.” Those words feel more damaging to our soul-health than talking about your feelings ever could be.
It wasn’t necessarily the most validating conversation, but it is one of those conversations that I remember long after the fact. I remember it because that was the conversation in which I realized I wanted to surround myself with people that challenged themselves to talk about the “food-between-your-teeth” emotions. I wanted to be around challengers and growers.
I know a lot of people have similar stories; I identified with many aspects of the life my friend had grown up living.
I grew up hearing that I could feel anything, that I could talk about anything. I grew up having panic attacks, so naturally, I was encouraged to talk about how I was feeling. Somewhere along the way though, I received a signal that informed me I couldn’t share my feelings in an honest way. I suddenly wasn’t allowed to cry or laugh without feeling as though it meant something about my worth. It was so finely ingrained in my whole being that I clung to the belief that if I allowed someone to know my messiest fears and sins, they wouldn’t accept me; even more, that they wouldn’t love me.
I see now that I too fell into a similar trap. That trap, my friends, is stitched into the fabric of our society. We don’t talk about “those things” here, we don’t “let people” know where it hurts or where we’ve hurt others.
There’s something I’m getting at here, and it is this crazy ideology practiced by millions of people everywhere. It’s called: vulnerability.
Maybe you’ve heard of it.
I’ve come to realize over the last year that vulnerability actually has a lot to do with our joy.
And joy is an interesting concept in Christianity because it’s not happiness. Joy, as I’ve written about before, is like a spirit-happiness. It’s enduring––joy is a fruit of the spirit (so it has to be cultivated and practiced) whereas happiness is a temporary emotion.
I’m learning now that vulnerability has a place in our joy because vulnerability, like joy, must be practiced because it’s good for our soul-health.
By definition, vulnerability is the “quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
Naturally, this isn’t something that we want for ourselves. So, we have “walls” and boundaries that prevent us from experiencing intense emotional (and physical) damage. However, for believers, we’re called to be in the world and not of it. It’s so much of a cultural tendency that we can’t share our emotions or mistakes without appearing weak.
BUT let’s go back to that verse in 2 Corinthians, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (9-10).
So, in that way, we’re called to delight in our weakness, we’re called not to be ashamed of our shortcomings and mistakes because that’s where God’s Light and Love is revealed the most. When something delights us, we want to share it with the important people in our lives.
I can honestly tell you guys that it has been through some of the hardest, deepest conversations that I’ve had with people that I’ve seen the glory of the Lord more than I do anytime else. When I’m talking with a person about the rockier circumstances they’ve faced, and maybe they get all red-faced and teary-eyed––guys, I see how Christ is moving in that, I can feel it as if it’s a real, tangible object.
That’s the best feeling I’ve ever gotten. So, when my friend told me that she didn’t “get” how I could be so emotional and let myself talk about it, I felt sorry for her. I asked God to give her someone she felt safe with so that she could talk about her emotional-pain without feeling that it made her weak. I genuinely hope that she has learned to embrace vulnerability to see the Lord’s glory.
I get it though, my dudes. Vulnerability is really fricken hard. Like, I’m not going to pretend that it’s all sunshine and rainbows to walk in that light. It’s not. It takes practice and determination. It takes prayer and accountability. It takes community.
I see this; I know how hard it is to confess sins or to “have a breakdown” in front of someone. But God promises that His glory, His light, is shining through us in those moments. When I confessed my sins to my best friend and she accepted me and loved me all the same, I saw how God had used His grace in her, how He enabled her to love me. And you know what? He enabled me to love her the same in return. That’s what I’m talking about! We need that in our lives and for our souls. Even more, we deserve that. We belong to the Most-High King and that King has called us worthy of His riches, of a glorious inheritance; He sees our worth and give it to us in abundance. Our worth doesn’t change when we’re weak, it doesn’t change when we’re vulnerable. It doesn’t change because when God gives something value, it’s STUCK there, it’s not removable. There is not enough “goo-gone” in the nation to remove the record of His love for us.
And in the end, our inability to be vulnerable and to trust the Lord and to trust others is going to come back to bite us. No, the world is not safe, and we don’t have a reason to trust it. Despite those cold facts, we are allowed to be vulnerable––God’s grace has given us all the permission we need. Yes, people will take advantage of you, we ought to be mindful and guard our hearts, however, we should not have walls so high that we cannot see when God has given us someone to talk to, to confess to, to relate to. The fear of pain, of weakness should not restrain you from living in the freedom that God is GIVING us! For where there is vulnerability, there remains an equal chance of community, of friendship, of losing your alone-ness and your despair.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open up our “soul-doors” to hope, to joy. Vulnerability is like a way that we can water the fruit of the spirit.
Friend, you’re so so so worthy of that nurturing and growth.
I want to challenge you, dear believer, to practice vulnerability. I know how hard it is, I know it’s absolutely terrifying. I know it feels like sandpaper against your skin, but He promises to make the bad things good, to make the challenge worth the fight. I know it, I feel it. It is simultaneously beautiful and worth it. We deserve to be vulnerable because we deserve community, we deserve love, and God shines so brightly when we aren’t ashamed to open our blinds.
Grace and Peace.