‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, I am strong.’ – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Every time I get in my car, I face a small domino with the word ‘vulnerability’ written on it in permanent marker. It rests on my dashboard. I attended a women’s conference last February, and a speaker challenged participants to determine a word as their theme for growth in 2016, and write it on a domino piece. I knew instantly what word I needed to choose. I can proudly, yet unfortunately, say I’ve often been someone accredited with strength and an empowered self-will. My mom has been celebrating my ambitious independence since I was potty trained at the age of 18 months.
Though those highlighting these personality traits bring them in waves of compliments, I have just as often seen these traits contribute to a closed in, boarded up existence; often lacking appropriate emotion and sentiment in many situations and relationships. My previously determined areas of strength began to haunt me as potential downfalls. Had I been striving so hard to appear strong and independent that I had created no room for realistic weakness in my life? I quickly scribbled the word ‘vulnerability’ down, finally ready for the challenge I had feared for years.
This area has never been my strongpoint. It has always been a foreign concept, exotic and distant. It seemed too dangerous, too challenging. Vulnerability was always too risky. Peeling back layers of emotion, baggage, fears and buried failures. It was everything I had been running from, and everything I had just signed up to face head-on. I had marked 2016 a year to be open, exposed and vulnerable. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but I knew it was needed.
Like anyone else’s story, mine has its own amount of hurt and pain. Yet I’ve learned that while trudging through my own despair, I can often become closed into a mindset that I’m alone in that situation. I can convince myself that no one else has felt that low, or that guilty, or that shame-filled. The list goes on. But in the midst of the hurting, is a possibility for healing. We just have to remember there are always others waiting to share their similar struggles, others waiting to challenge us towards redemption, and others waiting to walk with us along the path that takes us there.
Vulnerability, in its messiness and feared demeanor, might be the most direct bridge connecting hurting and healing. Here I am a year following that decision to become vulnerable. Most of my emotional exposition came through a relationship that forced me to face struggles I had left lingering in the past like self-doubt, pride and lack of trust.
Needless to say, I have realized a lot of things about myself. As each layer continued to be pulled away, I began seeing rooted areas of anger, impatience, pride and others begin to surface. And as they each became exposed and approached for resolution, I saw how unholy these roots were; keeping me from following Christ and advocating for Him in my life.
But most of all, in becoming vulnerable to these discussions and open spaces for growth, I saw myself from an outside position and not a merely filtered or foggy reflection of my inner perception. It was when I became vulnerable that I was able to open myself towards healing.
Even more, there is freedom within the weaknesses we show if we approach them with the mindset of exposure and redemption as the goal. They allow us to be free from the stigma of perfection we hold ourselves to, and provide God and other people He has placed in our lives to prove how truly impactful grace is.