But there is always the realm of the unexpected. We had just eaten dinner with strangers from all over the world while overlooking the city of Florence at sunset. After dinner a young woman and I began talking about life, marriage and plans for the future.
She told me that they had been trying to get pregnant for several months. I recognized the familiar face of a struggle with infertility, a struggle that brings stress, loss and shame. I knew this look all too well, because I had seen that look many times in the mirror over a period of five years.
I shared briefly my own story with infertility. I reminded the young lady of her value in God’s eyes, and how much her husband loves her. The young woman admitted that she felt enormous pressures, shame and even guilt.
But the encounter was a balm to both of our wounds. Our vulnerability brought us together.
Depending on our circumstances, being vulnerable can seem attractive, or it can seem impossible. In some circles it is praised, where in others it seems like emotional suicide.
We are usually okay hearing the struggles, secrets and weaknesses of others. We appreciate knowing that we aren’t the only ones who struggle. We just don’t want to be the ones doing the confessing. Under our public face hides our cards, our soft spots, our struggles and how others can judge us or hurt us.
No one enjoys being hurt; we often avoid vulnerability. The less we share, the less damage control we will have to do later.
Being vulnerable seems like a luxury that most of us cannot afford. For a variety of reasons, and typically an array of painful relationships, we learn it is better to keep ourselves hidden behind a shield. Inside we are sensitive and hurt; but on the outside we are tough, maybe even polished.
Many have had bad experiences of telling too much too soon and then wishing we could stuff the words back in. But we cannot confuse oversharing tendencies with being vulnerable. Both have their risks, but only vulnerability comes with reward.
Early in my life I had learned to be tough, smart-mouthed, funny, and independent. And by independent I mean, scared to death to lean on anyone or to rely on his or her word or character. As long as I put people in their place, then I could stay safely in mine; free to be disappointed and broken in complete privacy.
In my quest to appear strong and brave and “together” I never asked for help. I took the control route and decided to become the adviser in all my relationships. If I could focus on everyone else’s problems, I could keep mine tucked away. Vulnerability became a sin in my eyes because it threatened my carefully crafted facade.
But what I failed to understand was the power that came with vulnerability, with sharing our struggle with those who need to hear it:
They feel less alone—People need to hear that they are not alone, and that someone cares about their struggle. Isolation is not our friend in times of suffering; in fact, it can lead to depression.
You feel less alone—Whether you want to admit it or not, it is comforting to talk about our struggles. Sometimes we feel guilty about bombarding our friends, but they do care and they do want to hear about our lives, even the bad parts. And sometimes talking to a stranger in a foreign country is even more cathartic.
They feel hope—We cannot guarantee that God will answer their prayer the way they desire it. My story doesn’t end with a baby, but I still share it because it still offers hope: Hope in feeling whole and happy, even when things have not worked out like I had planned.
You realize your pain wasn’t in vain—I do not regret the last five years. I have lost much. But I have become stronger and closer to God, and I have been a source of light and of hope to countless women. Sharing my story adds purpose and value to my life. Is it time to share your story?
I tried to deal with infertility for two years without being vulnerable, without asking for prayer, without allowing others to care for me through loss. It has been more than five years that we have dealt with infertility. But sharing this struggle with others either in person, or through writing has made me feel a greater sense of purpose, even without a baby to show for it.
I am often praised for my willingness to share such a personal story. But I can’t help but think of those who are not with the same liberty to be open. I have a pastor friend, and he has a major fear of vulnerability, and with good reason. He has had some of the very details he shared with a congregation in order to serve the “greater good” be disqualifiers for him later.
As time goes on, he gets more and more guarded. He is trying to protect himself, and it seems that he is also trying to protect his faith in mankind. When we put ourselves on display for the benefit of others, it’s hard not to grow weary in doing good. But I proclaim that it is worth it. Here’s why:
While there are no guarantees that your willingness will be a positive experience, there are three quick questions you can ask yourself about the person with whom you would like to be open and vulnerable:
Ultimately, when and with whom you are open and vulnerable should be between you and God. Go to Him in prayer. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in the moment. But don’t miss the chance to be great, the opportunity to be effective, the power in leading someone to Christ, out of fear of seeming lesser than.
“Give ear to my prayer, O God;
and hide not thyself from my supplication.
Attend unto me, and hear me:
I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked:
for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
My heart is sore pained within me:
and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me,
and horror hath overwhelmed me.”
The “me” from five years ago would have shied away from such a desperate passage. When David talked to God, he was a wreck. I wanted to focus on passages of victory, verses that added to my feelings of confidence.
But my relationship with God has done more than taught me about the victory, it has taught me about the process of living, the need for community, the benefit of honesty, and the power in vulnerability. I feel that there is victory in serving other woman who are in this process by praying for them, listening to them, and reminding them that God has a glorious plan for them.
Vulnerability is not for the weak. Vulnerability is used everyday to bring glory to God. Because of my relationship with Christ, I don’t have to be perfect, have all the answers, give the best advice, keep a spotless house, or have the perfect marriage. I can be secure enough to be soft, humble, broken and victorious. I can breathe, and be the woman that God created me to be.
What are you holding tight to that you could share with others and lead them into a better life, or a better walk?
Our vulnerability gives us a voice and the opportunity to serve others. Our humanness connects us. In Christ’s humanness we gain our example for living.
Share your brokenness; share your story. It is by prayer, community, and the grace of God that we can be made whole again.
There is power in our togetherness, if we are only willing to be vulnerable.
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
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