Vulnerability begets Vulnerability

kind

I wrote a post last fall on the importance of kindness. My little advice on how to be kind, you may find it here. I don’t often talk a lot about kindness since I grew up in the south and the “nice” portion of that often meant sweeping truths under the rug, backstabbing, and the like. Call it a trigger word, whatever. Also my personality has always a little “cruel to be kind” in it, it’s the rebel in me.

I tend to use words like – grace, mercy, love – these imply so much more than kindness or “being nice”. I wear my heart on my sleeve, there was a time in my life that I could not pretend to hide if I did not like you, I could not contain the feelings, mostly because I was so emotionally broken.

These days I am emotionally broken in a different way. Through years of therapy and spiritual discernment I am emotionally healthy, yet, with separation and divorce, loss and grief, I am emotionally raw. Over the last few weeks, as my news has become public, I have struggled to keep my emotions at bay, yet, I have been met with grace, mercy, and love. 

Yesterday I returned to church for the first time since going public with the news of the separation. I was vulnerable. I have been vulnerable and my congregation responded to vulnerability beautifully, with vulnerability. They not only met me in it but became vulnerable themselves.

Because vulnerability begets vulnerability. Honesty begets honesty, love begets love, mercy, grace, and so on. It has not been easy for them, for anyone who knows and cares for my family, but it is not about ease, it is about authentic relationship. 

There were many reasons I needed to keep the troubles in my marriage a secret from “the world”. I do not think that was the wrong choice, I talked to whom I needed to, I sought help, and I lived in genuine hope of reconciliation. But this choice left my community and many of my relationships in the dark about what was happening in my life. They are not mad, it’s not about that, but it has reminded me that we are masters at putting on a happy face for the world and hiding, masking what is really going on inside of us.

Since the news has gone public in my community people’s stories are coming out of the woodwork, not just of past struggles but of complications in life that, usually by choice, they are keeping secret until the time is right.

So be kind. Or better yet, treat others with grace and mercy and love. Because we are broken people who are masters at hiding our pain.

Even When I Saw It Coming

There are a few moments in life in which I am blindsided by an emotional reaction.  When I tell a story in a sermon in which I have an emotional reaction I actually read it or speak it over and over so I can get the “emotion” out. The story is still moving, but when I’m preaching I need composure to be able to move on. I don’t have the option of breaking down for a few minutes (although this has happened and it’s okay when it does, but it can’t happen EVERY time).

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend and I was telling him that I cry at the same moment in baptisms.  The “Thanksgiving over the water” as I touch the water for the first time with (most of the time) a baby in my arms, I cannot help but be moved. Is it the deep seeded promise of the baptism? Is it the beautiful baby? Is it the energy of the room and the overwhelming love that is felt? I don’t know, and can one really be separate from the other?

But even when I know it’s coming, I can feel it, I can see it ahead of time and try to stop it, the emotion still rushed forward.

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This happened to me yesterday.

A week or so ago a parishioner texted me and asked permission to quote part of the benediction I use (you can find it here, embedded in my statement of faith) in her Christmas/New Year’s Letter. Of course, I said. The words are not mine (and even if they were you could have them anyway), but are associated with me.

So when I took the mail out of the mailbox yesterday and saw the card with her return address I knew what was coming. I knew she was ending the letter with the quote.

So I read the letter in the kitchen while warming up dinner, knowing her family well, smiling at their successes and her pride and love for them. Yet when I reached those words, the words I say every week and knew were coming… when I read them, I began to cry.

“Those who you love, and even with those whom nobody loves”

Even when I saw it coming, I cried.

I thank God for these moments that remind me that my faith is not just in my head, some say we cannot always trust the emotional reactions, but I say, for me at least, they are a reminder that faith is more than words, faith is felt, held deep inside, a place that can be touched even when my head anticipates and tries to block it.