Monday, November 30, 2015

The Power in Vulnerability

Clearly, as is evidenced by my recent blog topics, I've been dealing with some heavy-hearted stuff lately.  Family health, personal growth, personal trials, and heartbreak make for deep, occasionally dark, posts.  Hate to do it to you again, but here's another one.

Laying your inner self open for the eyes of another is terrifying.  I've discussed this ad nauseam, I'm afraid.  However, just as your inner self is a complicated thing, so is the topic of vulnerability. defines vulnerability as such:

In some discussions (relationships in particular) vulnerability is regarded as a positive thing: it means you trust the other person enough to be open, honest, and true to yourself.  But, it makes me feel a little justified in being fearful, when I look at definition 1.  Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.  AND definition 2.  Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.  AND definition 3, even if it is discussing a building and not a person.  Open to assault, difficult to defend. 

None of these things particularly inspire me to become all.  Self preservation is a very strong instinct across the entire animal kingdom:  we encounter this daily.  Physical exercise, sports, martial arts, the military, education, seat-belts in vehicles...all these things encourage us to be knowledgeable and physically able to preserve ourselves.  But then, in relationships, you are taught to do an about face:  let that person in, let them see the real you that you hide behind those walls.  For some, this is easier than others.  Some individuals do not have walls, they are fully themselves all the time, open to whatever life throws their way.  This works out well for some, and for some it yields lots of scars.  Some individuals have a maze inside, only the most determined can find the heart: this protects from lots of scars, but it also causes them to "miss out."  (On what, sometimes I am not sure.)

However, I have experienced another side of this dilemma: when you are presented with vulnerability by another.  When someone lays themselves bare before you, trusting you completely.  Being presented with this is often more frightening to me than becoming vulnerable myself.  This gives you great power.  Great.  Power.  Here, that overused Spiderman quote comes unbidden into my mind: "With great power comes great responsibility."  It rings true (as it always does).  When you are presented with this gift of a person's heart laid bare in their hands, you have been presented with a huge responsibility.  

"My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely." Song of Songs 2:14

Your heart, tender like a bird, is given to me with open hands, brought out from your hiding places among the rocks.  Hollow bones, fragile feathers, tiny feet: these deserve to be treated with gentle, compassionate hands.  

My hands sometimes are not gentle.  

One wrong move, the dove might lose a feather.  Not a huge deal.  Keep making mistakes though, and I can crush bone.  This, this is great power.  A power I do not relish.  A power I never wish to use for a strategic advantage, a power which I hesitate to accept at all.  Being vulnerable, myself, is one thing.  Accepting the vulnerability of another is entirely another.  A thing that frightens me to the point of freezing.  I have loved and I have severely hurt.  And while I do not run from the first, I am terrified of experiencing the second, ever again.  

Some tell me that I cannot hold the blame for that kind of hurt.  It's not my fault.  I hear those words, and I think they are somehow true, but it does not change the fact that it was my hands that broke that bird.  It does not change the fact that I--we all--have that capability to crush hearts when presented with vulnerability.  Is that the price of mutual openness?  I give you my heart, you give me yours, let's hope I don't squeeze it to death?  Maybe my opinion would be different, if I had my heart broken.  My track record, though, I'm the one who does the breaking.  This.  This gives me pause.  This arrests my step forward.  It is not that I lack the courage to jump: it is that I am afraid to catch another.  Afraid to bungle it, again.  

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

I suppose, though, you cannot refuse a gift.  Which, really, is how this kind of thing is presented.  You cannot force vulnerability.  You are presented with it, once you are trusted.  I suppose the giver knows you are imperfect, bound to bungle something, someday.  I suppose that is part of the weighing process:  do I roll over?  Do I trust that this person will respect, edify, challenge, protect, and love me?  Do I believe they will do their best to tread carefully, carrying this precious gift?  Yes?  
This is where trust, the trust I've spoken of before, comes in.  I have a perfect example to follow.  1 John, too long to quote here, lays this out quite clearly.  Lord help me emulate that perfect love.

"...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:16-19

Friday, November 20, 2015


Why is that such a hard word to say?  It's 5 letters.  One syllable.  It's not like it's "antidisestablishmentarianism," or "zugunruhe," or for heaven's sake "Annaliese."

Why is it such a hard concept to internalize?  Shouldn't it be simple? Shouldn't it just be easy?  You can make a character judgement, and if they are upstanding, loyal, kind, and honest...can't you just trust them?

Why is it so hard to really trust in the process?  Trust in whatever it is that gets you through the day?  Has that thing ever let you down?  If it wonder.  If it hasn't...why is it still so hard?

My God has never abandoned me.  My God has never, ever, left me without at least a tiny bird of hope in my soul.  And yet I doubt.  And yet I am afraid.  And yet I do not see--or understand--the end of the tunnel, for the road is long and dark.

"Courage, dear heart."

Trust.  Trust in the doctors.  Trust in the medication.  Trust in the Lord, that he knows the outcome and has planned it to show his great love.  Trust that everything is to work out as planned.

Trust that you are not alone.  Trust that there is a perfect, beautiful result to these trials you experience.  Trust the refining process, that it will yield a more beautiful, polished, you.

These words are beautiful.  They should bring hope to my soul.  They should fill me with a peace.  And yet I doubt.  I am afraid.

Even more, it breaks my heart to hear that someone else I have always trusted to lead me is struggling with this too.  Maybe not trust, so much as hope for a bright future.  Despair in the voice of someone you have always run to for comfort and is...hard.

Sometimes roles reverse, I suppose.  Role reversal isn't always easy, or something that is desired.  How do you take the lead for someone that has always lead you in the way that is right?  How do you trust you will have the strength to be there?

"'I wish I were braver.'  'If you were any braver, you'd be a lioness.'"

This is where I start reciting what it is I know to be true.  I think that anyone in a difficult situation, should call upon their life truths.  What is it I know, in my heart of hearts to be true?  To be real?  To be trustworthy?  Maybe something in that list will spark a fire of trust once again.

I believe in a perfect end.  Not what I can envision, because I am not perfect.

I believe in a God who loves us more than I can conceptualize, and I can conceptualize a lot of love.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I believe that we are called to live for the truth, regardless of what kind of path it becomes.

I believe there is always hope for the future.  Always.  I have to, else I'd crawl into a hole today, and not come out.

I believe that...even when we cannot see the good in something, it is there.  Perhaps to be understood tomorrow, perhaps only by our succeeding generations.  But it is there.  And that has to be enough.

Romans 8:18-39: 

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A True Love, not a Blind Love

Some time ago, I wrote a blog on being a hopeful romantic...instead of being a hopeless one.  I re-read it this morning with some surprise at how similar my situation, and my opinions are.  My core group has pretty much all paired off.  That's not a complaint, merely an observation.  Sure, I wish I was done with the dating scene, but that is (probably) largely a function of the choices I've made along the way.  And let me tell you, some of those choices were too easy...and some were too hard.  I've broken hearts and experienced heartbreak.  It's not fun, or easy, or pretty to go through either side of that.  I continually ask myself why I put me into situations where we end up in pieces.  What do you learn by breaking hearts?  What do you accomplish, besides pain and torment?  What do you teach yourself or your partner?

The hopeful romantic in me yearns for the one, for the man I can wake up to from now until forever.  The man I can pour out my love to, because I have so much I want to give.  Years ago I had a friend tell me that he just wanted to find the one to love, because he has an ache inside him to shower her with the love he has, the love he has been given.  It took me a while to understand that, but I get it now.

I'm not looking for someone to treat me like a queen...although that is nice.  I'm not looking for someone to take care of me...I can take care of myself--says the fiercely independent woman.  I'm not looking for someone so that I am a "typical member of society"...I've never been "typical", and probably never will.

I'm looking for someone I can love; I'm not talking about the rosy-colored feelings, I'm talking about the action verb.  I long to be there for someone, to be there to listen to their opinions, to banter, to minister to, to adventure with.  I long for someone I can show just how valuable the are, and how important they are in this great wide world.

You know, one of my favorite things about Jesus's life is his constant love for those around him.  His mercy, compassion, and love for those he came in contact with is something I strive for daily.  I fail, often, and I am sometimes blinded by those same characteristics.  But, nonetheless, a marriage (by some world-views' standards) is modeled after the way He loved his people.  Ephesians 5:21-33 gives pretty detailed instructions on how married folks should treat each other.  She is asked to submit to him (we'll hold feminism off for another time, I've got other points to make here), trusting that he is leading her as he should, in what is right and pure.  He is asked to love her as Christ loved his people.  Let's be honest: this is a sacrificial love, Christ died for his people.

That's dedication.

But just after, it says he is to present her holy and blameless.  That's big.  That's a lot of respect for her.  He is to push her to be right, and strive for perfection, just as I believe she is to push him.  He is to respect her body, her mind, her spirit.  He is to keep her safe and whole: blameless in the eyes of the World and God.

I think that sometimes I get so lost in building others up, I forget that I am allowed to expect others to build me up.  Did not God create us all to minister to one another?  To build each other up?  It is a requirement for me to give all to minister to someone I love?  Well, not exactly.  I can give whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable...but that does not include things like, my integrity, my body, my sense of self, my moral get the picture.  In dating, there is a line.  A line, that in the thick of things, is hard to see, and easy to cross.  Particularly when you desire so much to share your love, and when you see the beauty in someone.  I get lost in making sure people I love know they are loved, valued, and respected for who they are: sometimes I forget to see if I am also respected, loved, and valued for who I am--and pushed to be a better, right-er version of myself.

This.  This is the hard part.  I confess that often, I have died to myself too much: not necessarily for Christ, but for others.

That is not the point...

It's taken me a long time to understand the difference.  In fact, I'm not sure I understood it until I just wrote it.  Christ died for us so that we might live with the hope of tomorrow, the hope of being redeemed for what we have done-or inevitably will do-that is apart from His will.  Christ did not die so that we who follow Him continue to die for others.  He did that.  We're covered.  To die to self is to die to the carnal self, not to give up yourself to people, but to give up yourself to God.  For His perfect purposes, not for peoples' imperfect ones.

The realist in me sort of gets this, but struggles with how to show love without giving up myself entirely.  What's the point?  Clearly I've failed at this many times.  Maybe I should just keep that big ole heart to myself.  Maybe it's just easier to be a friend, and to stay out of that whole love thing.  Get a dog.  Drive my dog and myself into the sunset and live alone, somewhere, out of my truck.  If I just stick with that, I can't hurt anyone else by getting in too deep only to realize it's not the forever kind of relationship.  I can't hurt myself by spreading myself too thin, giving up myself to prove what?  That I have love?  *Gibbs slap*  That's not the kind of love I'm supposed to be proving.

Then, what?  What kind of love am I to be proving?

I am reminded of my parents.  They are two of the most loving people I know.  They are kind, merciful, compassionate, gracious, forbearing, and quick to forgive (I imagine those last two qualities are what makes them such stellar parents...especially with two headstrong, free-spirited children).  But, when the time is right, they do not hesitate to tell me when I am wrong, when I am making mistakes, when I doing things outside of what they know I believe is right and true.  They love me enough to be merciful toward my faults...but they love me enough to expect better of me.  To expect me to always be seeking the truth, the right, the correct way.

That is a truer love than a blind one.  That is a truer love than one that accepts normalcy without expectations of perseverance, dignity, self preservation, and truth seeking.  It is a love not only of your character, but of your soul: a love that longs to see the soul be redeemed, cleansed, and perfected.

Maybe one day I'll figure it out, by the grace of God.
Maybe one day, I'll be where they are, able to give not a full love, but a true love.
In the mean time, I'm not ready, yet.  In the mean time, I'll keep my nose in the Book, feet on the ground...and arms out to those with whom I come into contact.
I might not be ready for the one, but I in the meantime, I can give a little bit of the love, the compassion of Christ to everyone.