My hands are shaking in a jerky vibration. My legs are unsteady as they threaten to give way. There are one hundred people in front of me. It is a group from a church which has just begun to support our ministry. My husband just introduced me. Now they are waiting to hear a part of my story. It’s the part I would most like to hold back.
It is as though I am at the edge of a cliff. In the expanse there is an echoing call. Will I leap forward into the unknown, into vulnerability? Or will I take the safe path?
I close my eyes to ready myself for the plunge. I open my mouth and start to speak. We have just talked about our story, how we had to return to the States. It’s a vague thing until they hear my piece.
So I say it.
I tell them how a bout of hyper-mania landed me in a Hungarian hospital for 2 weeks. I speak the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and I try to keep breathing. It’s all ashes, but somehow the Spirit tells me my voice is the beauty.
When I finish, something unexpected happens. There is the ring of applause. Applause. It is a shocking thing. And I realize again how vulnerability changes the world.
Because when we choose to speak the hard, open up the wounds, bring others into our honest story, we touch the pulse of human need. We need to know we are not alone. We need to know we are more than our tragedies. We need to know there is hope in the pain, life after death, and freedom from bondage. When these needs are met we become someone altogether new.
However, as missionaries, the tendency can be to think we must be strong before others. But, I truly believe there is a better way—one which leads straight to the heart of God.
Here are some reasons to choose vulnerability:
- Because Jesus did: Jesus emptied himself of everything. Pride. Reputation. Stature. He never appeased the crowd. He laid down every care of what others would think to live the life he was called to live. He formed his communication of the truth about himself, knowing it would open him up to rejection. His story is lined with tragedy and brokenness. Yet, in it all, he lived vulnerably in a way which overcame the world. He calls to us to know and be like him.
- Because we want true community: Establishing a team of supporters is difficult. There is much work of casting vision, travel, late nights and early mornings. It is easy to want to hang onto it all tightly. But, the better way is to let go, risk sharing vulnerably, because we want the comfort, strength and warmth of true community. As we do this, we will become surrounded by those who love us, not the perfect missionary. We will find those who labor in prayer for our needs, because they know those needs, and believe their support is crucial to the victory.
- Because we give courage to others: The beauty of vulnerability is that as we share our brokenness, it gives others the courage to do the same. They are freed from the hissing lie which says they must hide their weakness. They too gain freedom to be honest with others about what their life really is. Our vulnerability becomes, for them, a stepping stone to, perhaps, an even greater experience of it.
- Because we are strengthened by it: The discipline, the lifestyle, of vulnerability is a gift. While it as an invitation for others to enter our lives, the greater thing happens in us. By opening up to show our cracked and bleeding places, we remember how we are loved. We are loved inspite of, and more, because of our frailty. It brings forth the tender heart of God.
- Because through it, we know the Gospel: As missionaries, some of our biggest fears are found in losing reputation and being seen as weak. But when we walk the way of vulnerability, we take away the power of these fears. We make space for the Gospel—the healing of our souls. In the great economy of God, we first receive the Gospel, and then, we are ready to give it away.
I don’t know where this finds you. Are you in a habit of sharing vulnerably? Keep on.
Are you struggling behind closed doors? Please consider opening up to others. It doesn’t have to be everyone, but it needs to be someone. As you take these steps, I know you will find genuine love and acceptance from God and others. You will find great strength and contagious courage. You will find Jesus and all it is to be like Him.