The Bridge of Vulnerability

How deep The Father’s love for us… His timing is impeccable. He sees us. He knows what we need, even when we aren’t sure. May I share with you my most recent revelation of His love?

So, I’m simultaneously reading Daring Greatly, Brené Brown’s bestseller, subtitled, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and working Step 8 in my Twelve Step group. If you’re unfamiliar with the 8th Step, it goes like this: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” There’s a lot that is scary in “working” Step 8. It’s definitely an opportunity to prepare for the risk of being vulnerable with those who may or may not receive my attempts at amend-making or be interested reciprocation.

I’ve got my list made. I’ve asked God’s Spirit to reveal to me whether anyone else should be on it. One of the questions in my Step work this week asks, “What people have I injured by withholding response or relationship?” Ouch. Isn’t it so much easier to just remain silent? To allow years and decades to pass without responding to or engaging in relationship with someone who has crossed our life’s path and gotten injured in the crossfire of our own pain and the ways we’ve numbed it? If you’ve ever worked a 12 Step program, you know that the one who ends up injured most when “I” refuse to face truth is “myself.”

Honestly, I’m scared of Step 9. I know it’s coming. Making a list is one thing. Making “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others” is quite something else. I’m nervous about what “they” might do or say, or worse yet, what they may not do or say. I’ve tried this before, with an ex-boyfriend whom I left in a hurtful situation. He didn’t acknowledge my angst. Didn’t accept my apology. I’ve not forgotten the aftermath. But I want to.

Guess what Our Loving Father did for me? Right in the thick middle of Step 8 and reading all about how vulnerability is (according to Dr. Brené Brown) “the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences,” He gave me the opportunity to know how it feels to be on the receiving end of “making amends.” He allowed me to hold the vulnerability of another person in my hands and to recognize the truth of what Brené Brown shares in her powerful book: vulnerability is not weakness. Instead, it is “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Brené says, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (p. 34) After last weekend, I am in full agreement.Vulnerability

Here’s the short version of how it happened: My biological father, whom I have not seen in four years, bought me a plane ticket to come for a visit to Colorado, where he lives with his wife and two teenaged sons. My husband came, too. We had a great time hiking in the Garden of the Gods and enjoying the beauty of a crisp Colorado spring. Then the blizzard came. (I can call it a blizzard – we were visiting from Florida, where it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit when we left home.) The chill forced us to sit by the fire one evening and talk. Talking can be pretty terrifying when it’s something you and your father have spent a lifetime avoiding.

The backstory may sound all too familiar to you (or to your children): My parents separated when I was 5. Divorced by the time I was 6. By the age of 7, I had a new stepdad and lived on the opposite side of the United States from my father. We rarely saw one another for most of my life. I was in high school before I made an internal decision to be intentional about getting to know him. We tried, but it was difficult because we lived in different worlds and connecting often felt awkward.

So, here I am last weekend, freshly turned 44, sitting in my father’s living room reading Brené Brown’s book on vulnerability, when he does one of the most outrageous, courageous, vulnerable things I’ve witnessed. He starts sharing his heart. With me. I will honor his privacy by not disclosing the contents of that conversation, but it was sealed with tears of anguish for the years of regret, and a passionate apology from a father who wished he had been able to be more of a daddy to my sister and me. I was dumfounded, frozen and staring. Then moved by compassion to embrace him with love.

As I lay in bed later, reflecting on the things my father shared, I was reminded of the way they parallel so many of our God stories. We may wander through life feeling abandoned, alone, and unloved, never realizing that Our Father agonizes over us. Unaware that He loved us from the very beginning and never once stopped, no matter how far away we were. He’s spent eternity longing for relationship with us: forever allowing us the freedom to choose to be “found,” always aware that true intimacy can never be forced, even by the Creator of those He longs to be intimate with.

I thought about the fact that my relationship with my earthly father shifted when I made a conscious effort to reach out to him as a teenager. That is when the walls began to slowly come down, brick by brick. Unfortunately, many partitions remained intact…until last weekend, when, with one giant leap of vulnerability, he bravely knocked down all remaining barriers, opening a way for healing to take place. It was a rare and beautiful thing to observe. He did Step 9 without even realizing it!

Being on the recipient end of “making direct amends” revolutionized my looming Step 9 and made it seem not so scary after all. I now understand how burden-relieving it is to witness the courageous vulnerability of a person seeking to make things right. I can only pray that I will be that brave.

Our earthly fathers are important. Whatever the status of our bond, it’s a relationship that matters. Unfortunately for so many of us, the fraying of fatherhood has deeply impacted our view of God and our perception of His view of us.

My Father's Bible

My Father’s Bible

Perhaps we can learn something from my experience with my father. Maybe it will be simply this, “For God so loved___________(put your name right here) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). God longs for an eternal relationship with us. He has done everything within His power to provide for that. He has loved us from the beginning. Unconditionally. Even when we didn’t know it. The choice is ours. Do we accept His gift, or do we reject it? Will we take His ministry of reconciliation and spread it to those whom we, in our broken humanity, have injured? Will we dare to be that vulnerable…with Him and with others? I pray so. There is abundant life waiting on the other side of the bridge of vulnerability. Just ask my father.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7fGEOH2XiY

 

She Dared Greatly

I‘ll simply call her, “She.” because you may know her. “She” may live in your community, too. “She” could wear high heels or flip flops, but you’ll recognize her, not for her shoes, but for her heart. Next time you see her, whoever “She” may be, give her a “Woo hoo!” for being vulnerable…for living Wholeheartedly. Let her know you’re in her cheering section!

She wore her rhinestone-pocketed jeans tucked into cowgirl boots. Her naturally curly hair was blonde and straight, her smile bright with expectation. I have not been quite so proud of a grown-up for a long time. Part of me wanted to run onto that stage and wrap my arms around her. Instead, I shouted, “Woo Hoo!” Texas-style, as she stepped up to the podium. Within seconds, I was silently glued to the pew, not wanting to miss one word of her precious gift to Jesus.

You see, she had promised Him that she would tell her story, after He, in a quiet moment, had asked her for it. At first, she shied from the real story, wanting to hide behind the fluff of other, brighter stories that would roll more gently off the tongue. But He persisted. She, wanting to please Him after all He has done for her, for us, relented in humble obedience.

I could feel a shift in the atmosphere as the women shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Most of us had been there, right there, in those shameful places she bravely described with tears in her voice. But most would never dare stand in rhinestones and boots baring our souls before hundreds of strangers. I applauded God as they applauded her. She resonated deep within souls who had come with unspoken expectations, but were completely unprepared for the splendor of sheer vulnerability in blue jeans. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, she connected to the hearts of her hearers. More importantly, she connected her hearers to the heart of God.

photoFor my birthday, I received  Brené Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In the introduction, she states, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” When we, or someone we love messes up badly, or is stuck in addiction, it’s so easy to hide behind a wall of shame, pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. But, according to Dr. Brené Brown, when we do that, we are not living “Wholeheartedly.” In fact, we may not really be living at all. We may be merely existing.

Dr. Brown says on page 9 in her book, that wholeheartedness is “a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness,” and that (p.11-12), “The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection. In fact, the willingness to be vulnerable emerged as the single clearest value shared by all of the women and men who I would describe as Wholehearted. They attribute everything – from their professional success to their marriages to their proudest parenting moments – to their ability to be vulnerable.”

When I read that, my immediate thought was, Then all Christians must be “Wholehearted” people, because we believe that we are worth the very life of the Son of God. But in my spirit, I knew for certain that not all of us who proclaim Christ as Lord are living our lives from a Wholehearted stance. Way too many of us are hanging our heads on the way to the altar, if we can even crawl out of bed and make ourselves go to church. Sometimes we give up trying because the masks become too heavy to hold in place. It’s easier to just stay away. Our shame and fear have kept us stuck in a place that is far from the abundant life Our Savior has called us to live.

But, not my rhinestone cowgirl. No way. She’s living abundant life. She’s living Wholeheartedly, pouring out the oil in her alabaster box as she throws herself at the merciful feet of Jesus, just wanting to give the most precious contents of her life back to Him. I loved her for that. I loved Him for giving her the courage to be just that vulnerable.

Brené Brown’s research has shown that the Wholehearted “have developed practices that enable them to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging, and even joy.” She says, “those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging.” (p.11)

We are, each and every one of us, worthy of love, belonging and joy! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV) You are loved. You are worthy of the greatest gift heaven has ever bestowed. Will you walk that out today? Go ahead. Pull on those boots! They were made for walkin’ – Walkin’ out your wholehearted, vulnerable life. Make your Jesus proud. “She” sure did!

http://katiecouric.com/2012/09/13/daring-greatly/ (Click HERE if you want to see Brené Brown discuss vulnerability with Katie Couric.)