1. You won't like me. We live in a world that celebrates rock stars and casts away everyone else to a deserted island of nothingness. From an early age I fell victim to this distortion. To fit in. To be a part of the cool kids. I have always cared about what people thought about me. I learned to hide the not so good parts and only share the great in an effort for you to like me. It wasn't until recent that I started to uncover why I am so afraid to be seen. Secretly I have believed that if you really knew me you wouldn't like me. That's because I didn't like me either. Why is it so hard for me to be vulnerable? After all, it is one of the things I love most about other people. You know the moment where a friend shares something that is really painful about themselves or shares a deep failure? Those are the moments that we connect. Those are the moments I treasure. There is something that happens in me when a friend is that vulnerable. I think it is because it is one of the rare moments in life I don't feel alone. It is a moment I feel safe in my shortcomings. My truth: Sharing my successes may gain applause but sharing my failures is where connections are born.
2. Vulnerability makes me weak. Joanne and I lost our first baby in 2006. Emerson Rose Dennie was stillborn at around 8 months. Until then, I felt invincible. Untouched by the world’s sting and oblivious to others it had touched. That was the first moment I remember feeling completely vulnerable. I was devastated. I felt hopeless and alone. Will we ever recover from this? Is this going to break our marriage apart? Will we be able to have children? Moments like that change you. When I look back, I understand more about what vulnerability is trying to teach me. I remember lying on the floor for what felt like hours shortly after we delivered her and getting up with huge pools of tears that had just gushed from my eyes. I remember time standing still for us while others continued to go about their lives. Ten minutes later when a friend would call and ask if I was ok I would make some ridiculous comment about how life was tough but we would be fine. What I wanted to scream in the phone was of course I'm not ok and I don't know if I ever will be after this. Somewhere along my journey I taught myself that lying about my reality to myself and others would push the fear away and miraculously change the circumstance. My truth: We gain courage through vulnerability and we build a bridge across the relational divide when we stop pretending to be strong.
3. I have to show you the skeletons in my closet. This journey of exploring vulnerability scares me. It causes something inside of me to rise up every time I sit down to confront it. A recurring thought for me is that if I share how broken I am as a pastor then I might as well air out all my dirty laundry and get to the really good stuff! I do have skeletons in my closet. Things that if I told you I did you would be shocked by and would never want me as a friend and surely not as your pastor. My guess is a lot of us have them. My other guess is like me you are afraid to share them. Vulnerability doesn’t mean we are forced to share all our dirty secrets. It means that in the right environment with the right audience we have permission to share them. I find that there are people in my life who have earned a place where this connection can happen. I also find there are people who I wouldn’t feel safe to share this depth of connection with. My truth: I am only beginning my discovery of vulnerability and that has led me to understand that simply writing a post like this is a great start to sharing some deep places that need healing and connection in my life.
I'll leave you with a powerful quote from Brene Brown who says, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection."