The November holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States is often more of a family holiday than a time to reflect on the grace of God in our lives. This series will focus on the fact that gratitude is the rock of our faith; if we lose gratitude, we lose our way.
I’M GRATEFUL FOR VULNERABILITY
Defenseless, helpless, susceptible, weak, exposed. These are some synonyms for the word “vulnerable.” No wonder we often hide behind masks! We have been carefully taught to cover physical or emotional vulnerability. We do the best we can to avoid ridicule, criticism, and disapproval. We even imagine that we can hide things from God.
Yet, while we are busy protecting ourselves, we lose all the marvelous benefits of understanding and being understood, to love and be loved. We lose intimate relationships with other human beings and with God. I remember a time when I was speaking to a group that had been together for 20+ years about using some study material I had written that suggested mutual accountability among group members. One man quickly spoke up, “We don’t know each other well enough to risk that!” The group caught his fear and chose not to use the material. I walked away wondering what hope there is for a world where people who have met weekly for 20 years are afraid to be vulnerable.
I grew up in a family where secrets were piled upon secrets yielding misery upon misery – and total disapproval was instantly displayed if a secret was accidentally revealed. The height of this insanity was the “grandpa alert” which meant we should run through the house hiding ashtrays and opening windows – as if my disapproving grandfather couldn’t smell smoke in the house. More harmful secrets were covered for decades to spare family members shame and embarrassment and guilt. I, therefore, grew up with the false narrative that said, “Don’t tell anyone what you have done wrong.” “Don’t let anyone know how you feel.” “Don’t ever let your guard down.” And yet we were also told, “Remember that God loves you.”
So I am grateful now for friends who are willing to be vulnerable, to tell the truth, to confess to things that put them in a bad light, to say they don’t know for sure, to risk affection and empathy, to share pain and pleasure. I learned about being safe in the Kingdom of God from Jesus, but my kingdom communities are teaching me that it is safe to be me.
This week I sat in a group of women I have known and loved for years and debated about telling them about a test I would have the next day that could result in a cancer diagnosis. I finally said, “I have to tell you this because I don’t want to.” I shared the information and, of course, the room was filled with love. That is why I am grateful for vulnerability.