On Being Vulnerable

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I heard a wise man once say that the church should be a place where we can stand up and declare that we are broken. And everyone will nod and agree. And then remind us that we are also beautiful. That wise man is kind of saying that everyone should feel welcome in church. And he’s also saying people should be vulnerable about their flaws, or pain, or struggle. It’s kind of like if we all admit we are broken, we can all bear each other’s burdens, and hopefully we will be able to remind each other that we bear the image of God – and that that’s a beautiful image to bear.

At least, that’s what I think he’s saying.

The trouble is I’ve never been very good at being vulnerable with people.

It’s not that I’m not honest, because I think now-a-days I am happy to tell people how I feel or if I mess up. The reason I’m not very good at being vulnerable is more just that I don’t know how I feel half the time. For instance, I was in Shanghai, China, for New Years and I spent the whole week beforehand pissed-off at a friend of mine called Abigail, even though I was in Shanghai round New Years and should’ve been stoked on life like the dog in that movie UP who is always stoked on life. [1]

The thing is though I wasn’t even pissed off at Abi. In actuality I was feeling down about a bunch of deep confusing ideas, but she was the easiest person to be angry at because her sense of humor is pretty much just repeating lines from youtube videos of stuff like Kiwis doing bombs in puddles.[2] And it’s easy to pretend you’re annoyed at someone like that to hide your emotions, because not many people make their sense of humor up of lines from youtube videos, and people who are different are always cheap targets. That’s why racism exists, or why hipsters and everyone else separate themselves from each other, or why I sometimes feel better than other people because I write poetry.

So, the point of the story about being pissed off at Abigail is to say that I am bad at being vulnerable because I think I’m feeling one thing half the time, when in reality I’m just scared to admit what is really going on.

But the more I look at people who are vulnerable with others, the more I come to conclude that they are better off for it. And the more I realise that, the more I want to learn to be vulnerable too. Sometimes in church we neglect to open up to others and be honest about our struggles and frustrations, and that’s a pattern I’d like to change beginning with myself. Because if we aren’t vulnerable with each other we can end up putting up a façade and making people think we have it all together. Some people call this a “Stained Glass Masquerade”[3], and others call it pretentious. Jesus called people like that hypocrites – which is what actors were called in His society. But I’m pretty kiwi. So I just call them eggs.

But it’s true. You know we all do it. Heaps of the time us Churchie folk are just big bunch of eggs, or hypocrits – as Jesus would say. At least, that’s how the people feel who get to watch from the sidelines because they see us hide our flaws so that we can point out the mistakes of the people who surround us. I know we don’t mean to be this crafty, but let’s admit that we are fallen, and fallen people do things we don’t mean all the time. I’m sure that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they never meant to bring sin into the world, get cast out of Eden or make child-birth painful and work hard…I bet they just wanted to get some knowledge about good and evil, or maybe even eat a little more healthy.

It seems to me that the church’s predicament is a lot like my one that I was talking about at the beginning: the one about not knowing how to be vulnerable even though I want to be. Because the church should be a place where we can stand up and declare that we are broken; and everyone can nod and agree. But they will also remind us that we are so very, very beautiful. For whatever reason we don’t do enough of that.

I don’t know much, but what I do know is that I want to be more vulnerable and open. For me this process begins now with two things: 1) by admitting I don’t really know what that means, and that I’m not good at it because of that. And, 2), committing to figuring this stuff out. Because next time I’m in Shanghai around New Years with my mate Abi, or whatever the case may be, I want to have been vulnerable enough about who I am beforehand, and have practiced knowing what is really going on deep down. Like I said at the beginning, if we all admit we are broken, we can all bear each other’s burdens, and hopefully we will be able to remind each other that we bear the image of God – and that that’s a beautiful image to bear.

So with this post the process begins.

Here goes nothing.

[1] If you have never seen UP, go see Up. Or watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy-CBs0XNlM

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J45N4R5zcfg

[3] The band, Casting Crowns, seem to have put this great phrase on the map.

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