Recently, I had the privilege of attending Gull Lake Centre’s LTD (Leadership Training and Discipleship) spring retreat. Per usual, it was a lovely time of connecting with old friends and experiencing the joy of making new ones. Like most of my visits to this sacred place, where I have time and time again met at the feet of Jesus, I came away with a challenging (potentially life-altering) view on vulnerability. GLC has always been exceptionally intentional with creating space for others to connect. It was during one of these times of connection that I sat down with a friend / mentor to discuss the unraveling parts of our lives. She gave me an entirely fresh way of approaching vulnerability and intimacy with others … humility. The following post is a journal-reflection that I hope you’ll glean from as well."I climbed into bed, pulling the covers up simultaneously. It was a cool night and frost had already begun to collect along my window sill.
I sighed, plunking my head on the pillow.
I had fun…
I think I had fun?
No … I had fun.
But then why did I fell so unsettled? Why was there this emotion hanging over my heart that felt much like the lingering frost outside?
I traced the evening back in my head while tossing and turning in the mess of my blankets.
I had just met a few friends for a weekend retreat. It had been a lovely time. We laughed, we joked, some of us even cried. I carefully and thoughtfully asked them about the details of their lives, wanting to make sure I listened more than I spoke. But did I? Did I talk too much? Did I ask enough thought-provoking questions? Did I place value on what they were saying more than what I was waiting to say?
I signed again as I glanced upward to my moon-lit ceiling.
“The problem wasn’t when you were listening, Grace. But when you were talking …” A voice within me whispered.
I began to quietly panic, internally going through the lift of conversation topics we had covered: church, school, our work places, where we wanted to be in five years, the pros and cons of facebook, past relationships, personality quirks, personal struggles…
Maybe I had divulged a little too much. Perhaps I didn’t sugar-coat my struggles enough. I probably seemed high-maintenance, a train wreck waiting to happen.
I groaned; reminded once again that although I pride myself on being an open and honest book, I grapple with feeling of insecurity once I reveal on intimate piece of my soul. Although I craved vulnerability, I was afraid of it. Works and stories are so easily articulated, so easily shared in the moment. Because in the moment, one craves the vulnerability that’s entangled with intimacy: I desire to know and be known.I want someone to be aware of all the details, even the gory ones, and see through it to who I am at the core. To see good, even though there’s some bad. But afterward I’m afraid, afraid that I’m too much, my past mistakes too messy, my personality too loud, and my jokes to borderline inappropriate. I’m terrified that the experience that have shaped me into who I am will discredit me and send others fleeing.
I tell myself that it wasn’t that bad. That nothing I said was really that horrifying. We all have our things right? But next time, if there is a next time, I would just hold my cards a little closer. Talk even less, listen even more. But that didn’t feel right either. If felt safer, sure. But something inside me told me that isn’t how we’re called to live. I started to scrunch up my eyebrows, an annoying habit I picked up in my lifetime of contemplation.
“What am I doing to myself?” I asked silently, rubbing my eyes in exhaustion.
Why was how I feel about myself dependent on how someone else perceived me? Why was whether or not I had “fun” with my friends determined by a make-believe approval rating? Why did I assume that everyone else was judging me as critically as I judge myself?
Vulnerability regret: the desire to live vulnerably, truthfully, being open and generous with one’s stories in order to great real, long lasting relationships only to feel insecure afterwards. Like maybe my stories were safer inside … maybe I liked giving people the illusion I had my life all together better than who I am, really am: flawed.
Even as I continued thinking, I knew that although I may prefer to maintain my “image” by, staying aloof … I would never be truly “known” that way. Nor would I truly “know” someone else. I would be safe but I would not be fulfilling my God-given purpose to cultivate community, discipleship, accountability, and growth. I’m not saying the way to a godly life is to become a consistent over-sharer or that you should be doing all the talking. But a funny thing happens once I’ve shared something uncomfortable … I’m humbled by it.
I realize that I’m not perfect. And that’s okay.
Because if my joy is dependent upon how other people perceive me, whether or not I have it all together, then I will continually be running on a hamster wheel trying to do damage control whenever that image does not align with reality (which is always). I will sacrifice who I really am, the experiences God has given me, and how I have grown, in order to maintain a false ideal of myself that does not, and cannot exist.
The fact of the matter is … I do not have to keep my image polished for God. He already knows who I really am and loves me all the same. The people Jesus was last impressed with were the Pharisees, leaders who were always worried about keeping up their perfect and “righteous” image. In fact, he told them they were like white washed tombs … they may have looked great on the outside, but on the inside they were rotting.
So what am I doing to myself? What compels me to critique my performance, afraid that someone might take something I say and realize that I’m less than perfect … I AM less than perfect. And that’s a good thing, because it is when I realize this truth that I become more dependent on God and who HE says I am. He actually already knows me, loves me, and has made me enough … regardless of any other opinion. And if that’s the best reason I’ve ever heard to be courageously vulnerable.
… I went to sleep smiling."