Vulnerability: Into the Darkness & Light
I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately.
And how becoming a missionary or a leader can kill that.
Nothing exposes our weaknesses as much as trying to manage projects or people.
There is a constant struggle for perfection, to want others to see that your ministry is great or thriving or “better” than somebody else's. People constantly want to judge it, or offer their opinions for how you can improve things and it makes you just want to wring their necks.
But deep inside its a very vulnerable place to steward a vision. And to allow people to come close, peek in and see the cracks. That's pretty much what we do every time we accept a missionary, or a volunteer, or a team, or a speaking engagement.
Sometimes we have a habit of telling the best stories, or the success stories, or the miracles. But behind every one of those are the days that are not as glamorous. The days we are dealing with conflicts between staff, or doing admin, or answering emails, or are disappointed that someone did not get healed. The days you kind of don't know what the heck God wants you to do. Yeah, we have those days too.
Last month was a very vulnerable month for me personally. We had an amazing team come from VA to train us in Theophostic Prayer Ministry. I started out thinking it would be a great tool to use as we seek to bring healing to this nation, but quickly realized that it was more about me than I thought.
The truth is that we all have pain from our past that is triggered by people and events to erupt into pain in the present. Sometimes we respond more harshly to others based on those hidden wounds. And in a place that is secret and almost hidden from our conscious mind is a place that believes lies about ourselves, our own unworthiness, or own unlovability. And this is what makes us perform, and fall into perfectionism, and push people and God away.
At first I hated Theophostic because it made me vulnerable, but then I came to love it, because in that place of vulnerability and facing your pain, the Lord speaks His truth of who you are and how He sees you and it is one of the most beautiful points of freedom, and presence and connection one can feel.
The definition of courage is “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
This is not easy.
I recently watched an amazing talk on TED that even from a secular view point proves this idea and I highy recommend you watch it.
I had an opportunity in one of the trainings to be “guinea pig” of sorts and let them model theophostic on me in front of a group of my staff. You can imagine I was terrified. To let my roots of pain and vulnerability come to the surface in front of others...sounds like I'd rather have my wisdom teeth removed.
And I realized at that point how excrutiating it was for me to be vulnerable.
But this is not the way that God intended for us to live. He didn't intend for us to numb our pain with beer, or pizza, or sex, or work, or people, or “ministry.” He intended for us to feel it. The Bible says:
“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.” Job 12:22
“Therefore, stop judging prematurely, before the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is now hidden in darkness and reveal the motives of our hearts.” I Cor 4:5
The Lord has designed that the hidden things in heart, our hidden motives, and secret insecurities, and dark moments of pain, should surface and be exposed so that He might lovingly heal them and tell us what He really believes about us and what He really wants us to know about Him.
But I've found living here in Uganda, with so many moments of pain, and babies dying, and women being abused, and people still suffering in their sin, and disappointments, and lost loves, and hope defererd, and judgments from those that don't understand, it is easy to try and go home and numb that pain somehow.
How else do we survive?
And is there another way?
I believe I'm on a journey of discovering there is.
It is like Tao said: "To be whole, let yourself break.”
In that place of vulnerability, of crying in front of others, and allowing myself to be seen and allowing myself to feel the pain of many moments and memories long since filed away, I went home and talked to God and He talked to me and I realized that deep somewhere in the “dark night of my soul” I believed terrible things about myself, things that caused me to feel unworthy. And it's a place I know well because I have seen it shadow the eyes of the women and girls we help. That sense of unworthiness. That shame. And I've searched long and hard for how to transform it into light.
It isn't enough to just know Jesus. We must also know what Jesus sees.
And I can tell someone over and over again that they are loved. But it is not until they hear distinctly from God what they need to hear, that they will fully embrace it.
I have also realized that here it is easy to harden your heart against friendship because so many beautiful people are just a glimmer and then they are gone. I had started walling myself off against new relationships, or even old ones, stopped hoping people would call, or loved ones would come visit and just kept making excuses to make myself feel better. Most of my life I have moved from place to place on my own and I thought I was tough because in my own words, “I don't need people.” But I've seen it's just a facade, a weary defense against the pain of love lost due to time or distance.
The truth is I do need people. I need you. And it's ok.
And I want you to see me, even in my imperfection. I want to be known.
And isn't that what we love most in the people we admire: their ability to be vulnerable and to laugh at their frailties?
It's been said that you cannot have compassion for others, if you do not first have it for yourself. I find this is true. When God speaks to me, He is all grace. And He tells me it's ok to let go.
Uganda will not rise or fall on my shoulders.
Sometimes I just need to curl up in His lap and let the burden be His.
And the beauty is that.....after the pain...the sacred. And after the pain, the glory.
A life that knows it is worthy holding itself open to the world.
A life seeking whole-heartedness.
Searching for the ones who are brave enough to walk hand in hand into the dark.