Vulnerability: Exposed uncomfortably, how we try to “keep it together” and why showing vulnerability makes others comfortable.

We always try to hold it all together!  We mean well.  It just seems like when we are being parents or  coaches, volunteers, friends, wives or husbands, and all things to all people, that something in us tells us we have to look or act or be perfect.  Or at least “show well” for others.  The problem is, we can’t hold it all together…and I don’t think we are meant to!

I know that I have experienced my ‘fair-share’ of vulnerable moments, when my best side wasn’t showing and I didn’t “hold it together”, or a vulnerability was exposed.  A few examples :

**Generally losing it in a public place with my own offspring…this includes grocery stores, children’s museums, and even–yes–at church.  When my voice is raised at a volume that is above a “happy tone” and my face is wrinkled in that angry state of “argh!”

**There was a time when we took the oldest (3), the middle (1),  and by proxy the youngest, who was in womb on a short term mission trip to Honduras.  Upon arriving home, I found out that a couple good friends got a hold of my mother and wanted to help clean my house.  First…THAT is vulnerability! Our house was messier than usual when we left!  We had spent days packing our family, other students and packing donated supplies – all in our home.  My friends told me about their surprise upon my return (definitely a thoughtful gesture).  Then they told me about their attempt or thoughts about cleaning and organizing my pantry.  The house, yes, but my pantry?  Well, I LOVE organized, perfectly straightened pantries.  I strived to have all the nutrition facts facing the same way, pasta and crackers and cereals all in perfect harmony.  But, husband isn’t as passionate about the beauty of a pantry as I, so I decided that perhaps this was a battle I would let go of.  I was embarrassed that they viewed my pantry, with it’s door usually closed, as one crying desperately for help.

**There is also the experience of the phase that the middle one was a biter.  That is vulnerability. When your innocent preschooler, who is the best cuddler of all, can leave a primal mark on another human…usually, a sweet pigtailed girl, and once, the preschool teacher! And the mark is one that can be seen, and someone needs to talk to you about it.  That’s showing my vulnerable or ‘icky’ places.

**And the vulnerability we face when our child doesn’t make the “A” team, or isn’t placed in the “highest math grouping” or isn’t a part of the “popular” group of friends.

I remember these moments.  I am long past some of them, and I still experience other moments of life exposing my vulnerability, my imperfection, or the imperfection of the ones I love.  These were some moments that were struggles.  In my pride, I would suffer if I thought about them as a reflection of me…in my pride I suffer if I care so much about what others think of me.

C.S. Lewis once wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable.”  -Four Loves

Powerful to think that love makes us vulnerable.  It is true.  Love my kids-I am vulnerable.  Love my friends enough to let them tell me what they really think: Vulnerable.

or

Self love and when I care so much about the material world and value of success and those other things…- again I am vulnerable.

And so these thoughts lead me to one of the most influential experiences in my years as a full-time at home parent.
I got invited to lunch by a friend.

Yep…that was the event that left a mark on my heart.

I wasn’t just invited to lunch.  I was invited to lunch spontaneously.  And when I walked into my dear friends house…not having to make lunch for my own little brood (and they were little at the time)….I looked around and this is what I saw:  I observed a piling of dishes in the sink from the morning’s breakfast, and perhaps from the dinner the evening before.  I saw laundry piled on a couch in the living room when I walked in.  There were papers and bills on the table.  And we were going to eat left over taco soup.

And I felt……..

AT HOME.

See, my friends spontaneous offer, her love for me more than the perception of herself…it welcomed me.  It said “the person is more important than appearances”.  She offered me friendship and she offered me her time!  She could have come home first and cleaned up.  But she didn’t, she just let me come into her space…her unfinished places…whatever that might be.  If that was dirty toilets that day, I don’t remember.  If it was an un-vacuumed carpet, I was unaware.  I just felt at home.  And she offered me and the young ones taco soup from the night before….and in her left overs she offered me a new favorite food and meal idea for my family.

I am not sure if she knows how much this spontaneous lunch meant to me.  I have spoken of it many times since.  It formed my opinion of how I should be more vulnerable and offer love.  Because it is in her vulnerability, her messy places, that I felt COMFORT.  I felt LOVED because the other stuff…it just didn’t matter (And I think she was quite secure on just having company and not caring)

And love and fear do not intermix.  Fear is directed inward, focused on what will happen to me if I fail the test, or am rejected, etc.  Love is directed outward, towards caring for another person more than we care for ourselves.  The more you look outward (love) the less you look inward (fear).  And, that day, she was looking more at LOVE (of me, her friend) than FEAR (“What if Rachel judges me?”)

So, from that moment on, I made a more conscious effort to love people right from where I am.  I try to just offer love as simple, broken, in-progress, me.  And sometimes–actually quite often, that kind of love involves sharing those vulnerable moments I shared with you above.  I share with others the struggles I have faced, or the weaknesses I battle with.  I try to invite them into my real world of messiness.   I admit, I occasionally ‘tidy up’, either the house, or sometimes my ‘image’.  It just isn’t our natural bent to just be open and vulnerable.   But I do love people.  God has put this fantastic fascination of people, and a love of His for each and every person on my heart.  So, I follow Jesus’s lead and try. Try.

I will never forget my friend’s love and vulnerability being so comfortable for me.  And this is the love the Christ offers us.  He finds us as we are….He doesn’t put on a fancier robe, and cleaner sandals before he meets us, or before He performs that miracle – physical or within our hearts.  He just met people along the way, and offered all He was, at that moment.

Is there a time when someone was vulnerable to you and it made an impression of love?  I would love to hear in the comments.

Can you invite someone into your messy home for a meal or cup of coffee this week? Or in your messy places to share what you are struggling with? (Share if you do, in comments, or an email)

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12v9 (NLT)

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear.  It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that state, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear.”   – C.S. Lewis

 There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [a]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!     1 John 4v18 (Amplified Bible)

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