What a strange thing. Vulnerability.
All of my life I was taught not to be vulnerable. I was reprimanded for crying. I was told to not put my heart out and give pearls to swine. I was shown that when things get hard you ought to go more into yourself. I was demonstrated that it is best to not breach the hard topic, and that if someone else brings up the hard stuff the best response is to put up defenses and to point out their wrongs. I was told that Jesus wasn’t vulnerable. That God doesn’t want us to be vulnerable. That vulnerability looks like empathy and that empathy is bad.
Then I grew up.
I tried to not be vulnerable. I took my anti-depressants. I put on a smile. I decided that it is better to work 60 hours a week for noble causes than to be present with individuals. I was insistent that I would never get married, and especially that I would not have children. I didn’t plant roots. I traveled around. When things got hard I moved again. When family was messy I stayed with other family. When friendships got complicated I check out. When situations were beyond me, I moved to a different state or country. I did what I was told, I self protected and put on a nice face and participated in great causes, so that I would never have to deal with that vulnerability shit.
And it was a waste of 10 years of my life.
Then I met someone who told me that even if I never change the world, I have changed his world.
I smirked… that’s not enough. What a silly thing to say. To think that changing your world is consolation for failure. That being present with one person could be sufficiently important. That I could live a purposeful and valuable life with out being written in history books. That I don’t have to constantly be propelling myself to meet “more important need.” That I could love just one person well and still be ok.
I could not stop thinking about his comment. It seemed so inconsistent with my worldview; that impacting one individual could be enough.
Then it hit me, I proclaim to believe that social causes are important, but if it’s not enough to change his world, then do I really actually care about the people behind the social causes? Or am I pursing great causes for an ulterior motive?
It became apparent to me that, even amidst the good motives, were some motives rooted in the fear of vulnerability. That not only was I unable to be present and value the individual (because that would require a level of empathy), but that I was seeking identity and value from the justice causes which I pursued. That I was unable to be fully present and to value an individual because I didn’t know where my own value came from, so I was constantly trying to do the bigger and the better. The individual wasn’t enough for me to be enough myself. I had gotten to this point because I was never shown or told who I am, that I can do hard things, that strong women are simultaneously the most vulnerable. I didn’t realize that I have identity and value apart from the way someone may respond to my vulnerability, as well as apart from the social causes that I champion. My whole world was challenged.
So I sat on it. It took years. But I became pregnant with these concepts. I didn’t know what it ment. I didn’t know how it would impact my life. I didn’t know how I was going to birth it. I just let it grow.
I married that man whose world I changed. He kept telling me silly thing like that I didn’t need to be written in history books, and that the purpose may not be about getting the most done for the most people.
I started to recognize that God’s biggest act in history was His most personal and most vulnerable. That Jesus was sent to empathize and to be vulnerable. How unproductive. He died. He didn’t start His ministry until He was about 30. Then He spent half of His time alone or with only three disciples. What a waste.
Or was it?
Maybe my life was a waste. Maybe I was completely missing the point.
So I sat on it longer.
I had a baby. It wasn’t in the plans. But it was good.
It took a few weeks, but she slowly became more important than the dishes. Eventually she became more important then me doing big things like training for a marathon. I even stopped running all together for a season because that’s what seemed best for her… to be more present with her. I stopped planning to attend graduate school. I stopped thinking about all of the ways I was going to impact the world and how I was going to be written in history books. I stopped looking for my value in all of these things. I didn’t yet know where my value really came from, but I knew that she was more important than pursuing those grandiose causes. So I put it all to the side… not knowing what the other side looked like. But I was willing to try it out.
Even writing this I feel like I need to defend myself. That I threw away my life and that I am wasting my time. I keep hearing the voices of a few individuals in my life who have always told me in words and actions that I could never do enough to be enough. That they will read this post and call me to tell me that I am doing it wrong. Maybe that’s the point… that all along they have missed my heart. That all along the lies they have lived and have pointed me towards were because they were not willing to be vulnerable enough to see my heart. They never empathized with me. They couldn’t . I forgive them. But I can no longer let them be my standard or my measure of living a wholehearted life.
So today, I find myself on the journey to the other side. Whatever that means. I think I’m naked. Maybe that’s how it will always feel. If vulnerability is the goal, then this purgatory between no vulnerability and full vulnerability may actually be the best place to be. It feels raw. It’s the best place I’ve ever been.
I know that I have gifting’s. I want to change the world. I want to run marathons. I want to go to grad school. I want to do these things with the right motives. And I will. But those things will never be enough. So I’m done chasing them as those that’s the purpose of life.
It is becoming apparent that if I am to do all of those things and more in a purposed and wholehearted life worth living, then it is worth sometime to align my motives. To learn value and identity apart from all of those things.
I don’t know my vision or my plans. And for the first time I feel like I’m changing the world in bigger ways than ever. I’m changing her world. And that will always be enough. I will always be enough; I have always been enough. She doesn’t make me enough. But she reminds me that neither she nor the ‘bigger’ things can ever give me my value. That Jesus came as a baby, and that He changed the world in just the right hour, after years of being present. In His last breaths He was present. His greatest, world changing work was the most vulnerable act of them all… for individuals like me.