Our modern Christian culture thinks it cares very deeply about vulnerability. We spend hours talking about it in our small groups, book clubs, play groups, and around tables. "What if we were more vulnerable?" we ask. We wish people were more honest with us when we ask them how they are. We wish people were more open with the hard topics of life such as neglect, depression, loneliness, singleness, abuse, and emotional pain. Yet with every conversation we have about opening doors, we actually put another chain-lock and bolt in place. With every conversation in which we talk about being more vulnerable but do nothing about it, we build a bigger barrier to someone sharing their heart.
What if instead of talking about vulnerability, we were simply vulnerable? What if we simply responded in honesty, truth, and love? What if we earnestly opened up and shared how we are? What if we acted on the things that we so desperately long for? Why don't we?
Every time I choose to be vulnerable and share something deep or earnest about my life, one of two things happens - either the person on the other end is shocked and doesn't know how to respond because they were expecting the socially acceptable, "I'm fine, thank you." Or, my little bit of effort seems to be a key that unlocks a great heap of locks and knocks down walls. It's as if a small offering of my true-self acts as an invitation to the other person to be themselves, to speak words of life and truth, and to be vulnerable as well.
I have spent the last year playing with this theory. I've shared hard things with people I know well and sometimes with people I've barely known at all. I've cried over the words that people have said - and the words that have been left unsaid. I've tried to listen and ask the right questions in love, while knowing I was probably asking the exact wrong questions. Friends have shared hard things with me and then I have absolutely failed to follow up.
As I've endeavored in this, I have experienced the deepest community and comfort I've ever known and have watched tides of deep loneliness ebb further away. This lessening of loneliness isn't necessarily because I'm surrounded by a massive community whose every heartbeat is for me (although I do have some pretty awesome people in my life). It's because as I've shared bits and pieces of my story and my life here and there, I've trusted God with my story and He has filled the loneliness. I've learned that people can't be implicitly trusted to have the right response, the right words, or the right body language when I share hard things. Goodness, I can't even figure out how to do those things and I'm actively trying! But God can be trusted.
As we obey, God is "working in us, to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13b). As I share my story, my testament to who God is and what He has done in my life, I can trust Him with my heart, my emotions, and people's response to what I have to say. As I listen to other people, I will say the wrong words, offer too many solutions, or miss the opportunity to follow up, because I am not perfect and God is still teaching me. But I can trust Him to use my words to fill other's loneliness too. I may not always be able to trust the hearts, minds, and mouths of the people that I share with, or even myself, but I can definitely trust the heart of God and trust that His purposes are best for His glory and His people. I can trust that He will care for me and that He will care for others.
With all that in mind, you should know that this year has been the hardest and most joy - filled year of my life. I have known God and experienced the blessings of knowing Him like never before. I have clung to hope in the living Savior like my every breath depended on it - and I have learned that He is enough. I have watched God mend relationships and change hearts. I have seen Him close difficult seasons for me just before new, harder seasons began.
There's so much more I have to hope and long for in the year to come; there are so many stones left unturned as I begin another year of my life. I like endings to be tied up with a pretty bow - and today marks the end of a year and the beginning of a new year that just doesn't have a pretty ending. With all this behind me - and so much before me - I can claim that God is everything that He says He is - God's Word is Truth. I pray that you can claim that truth as well and then can go love others by sharing yourself and inviting them to be real with you.