I’ll never forget the first time I met with some people I barely knew to plan a ministry project.
I was used to attending Sunday school and small groups, but those were generally limited to questions about how a Bible passage might be applied or where to find a certain verse. This meeting would be different.
“Let’s go around the room” — someone said, and I was ready for something easy like sharing prayer requests or get-to-know-you questions — “and let’s each take a turn talking about what God has been teaching you lately.”
My heart beat a little faster. I barely knew these people, and this was a personal question! Doesn’t this violate some kind of cardinal rule of group politics?
It’s not just for the sugar
I recently heard a speaker talk about moving into a new neighborhood — where she knew no one — and going to a neighbor’s house to ask to borrow some sugar. “I didn’t need the sugar,” she said. She just wanted to meet the neighbors. There was something about admitting a need and asking for help that kick-started a neighborly relationship.
As Christians, we are more than neighbors; we are brothers and sisters. So, shouldn’t we be more open about our needs and struggles?
That’s what I used to think vulnerability was — openness. But vulnerability is more than just telling secrets. Technically, to be vulnerable is to be “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm” (Oxford Dictionaries).
This is why we fear sharing our hearts. What if admitting my need or struggle results in greater embarrassment? What if the people I reach out to refuse to help? Or act shocked or uninterested?
What if they’re out of the proverbial sugar, too? Or worse — what if they’re some kind of perfect health nut who never eats sugar? What will they think of me then?
I don’t want to be vulnerable because I don’t want to get hurt.
Don’t shut that door
So why do it? Why mess with the mess and risk the hurt? Let’s just hide our needs deep inside and keep the doors to our dirty closets tightly shut. That’s what closets are for, anyway. Hiding things.
But our hearts hide more than last week’s dirty laundry. We hide worries, rejection, the hurt of unexpected changes, past griefs and disappointments. And hiding from vulnerability won’t keep us from the hurt because we’re already hurting.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ can help heal our hurt. It might seem easier — and more spiritual — to say that all we need to heal our hurts is Jesus, and of course we need Him. But to use this as an excuse to avoid vulnerability is to use Jesus as some kind of magic potion while avoiding the tools for healing He gave us: our brothers and sisters.
The New Testament is peppered with encouragement to spend time with other Christians, to share our possessions with one another, to confess our sins to one another, and to love one another like Jesus loves us. The “one anothers” of Christianity far outweigh the “by yourselves.”
We find healing together.
Hold that thought
Of course, there are times when we should not be vulnerable.
The people we choose to share our hurts and needs with must be trustworthy, and while they might gently push us to share more than we want, they shouldn’t force us. Our secrets and innermost thoughts aren’t cheap: they shouldn’t be shared with the general public or in casual conversation.
Some secrets are meant to be secret from some. Most secrets need to be secret from somebody. Before sharing a deeper part of yourself with someone, ask these questions:
- Do I need help with this?
- Has this person been trustworthy in the past?
- Does this person follow Jesus in a thoughtful, intentional way?
- Will I be unnecessarily talking about someone else? (No gossip here, ya’ll.)
It’s worth it
Sometimes we edge ourselves into vulnerability for another person, even though we don’t really need to talk about it for our own sake. It may be that the person we are talking with needs to hear our story. We might be fully aware of their need, or there may just be a whisper in our souls that nudges us to share.
Sometimes it will hurt to be vulnerable. And it will always be hard. It requires getting personal. But vulnerability with the right people can lead to healed hurts and cleaner closets. And as we lean in to these hard things with our brothers and sisters, we will come out on the other side transformed.
Remember that group of strangers I met with to plan a ministry project? Well, they ended up becoming some dear friends. And that would’ve never happened if we weren’t willing to be vulnerable.
So — what has God been teaching you lately?
Copyright 2018 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.