Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's hard to be vulnerable.

I've been thinking about vulnerability.  Why is it so difficult?  (shakes fist in the air like my granny)

Vulnerability is linked to authenticity and perhaps they are cousins, but they're not the same.  Everyone is clamoring to be 'authentic' but sometimes I think it's only an excuse to do whatever we like.  "This is the way I am.  Deal with it.  I'm authentic."  

Don't get me wrong:  I appreciate authenticity, but only when it's folded within God's grace that grows us.  Sometimes I need a pal to look me in the eye and say "Hey.  Not cool" instead of "Oh well.  That's just Katie.  She likes to dropkick people." 

Authenticity folded within God's grace = good.  Authenticity as a scapegoat for doing whatever we like = not so good.  But I digress.

Vulnerability however is a sort of opening up.  Vulnerability can be a weakness in certain situations, but in the body of Christ it is imperative.  When we are vulnerable we let people in and my goodness THAT is difficult. 

We are conditioned to keep most people at a distance, relegating them to the nosebleeds.  We are even polite about it (!)...masquerading distance-keeping as a way to not burden others.  As a result we are good at justifying it.  We make sure conversations and even prayer stays on the surface.  Often times we are nothing more than what Beth Kennett calls 'familiar strangers.'   How then do we work to share the love of Christ when we do not know it together?

Recently I was at a meeting and vulnerability showed up.  A guard was let down.  A burden was shared.  Everyone paid attention in a new way.  It hurt me to hear his hurt, but his courage also gave permission. I remembered "I'm not alone."  Vulnerability is a good reminder we aren't.  How many more folks would be on the road to healing if only they would open up to the community?

And clergy often need the most help being vulnerable!  We champion vulnerability...for others!  This is not so much biblical, pals.  I don't think any of us need tell everyone everything (such as secrets to delicious cakes and such), but sharing joys and struggles needs to come a bit easier.  And I'm talking to you Kathleen E. McKown.

We can be models of vulnerability by opening up in our preaching and teaching.  Sure--we may get hurt every once in awhile--but the risk is worth it.  It has to be.  We have to open up.  It's difficult...but most worthwhile things are.

CS Lewis says it much better than me: “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.”

Go forth, Katie.  Go forth, friends.  Be vulnerable.

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