The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Weak and Strong

February 21, 2011

Weak and Strong

This week, in the middle of worship during small group, God reminded me, "I have made you strong. There is nothing that happens to you that I have not already prepared you for, nothing that is more than you can handle. Nothing that I do not protect you from."

With that, I let out the breath that I'd been holding for the last two years.

You see, in the last two years, I've delicately balanced my passion for vulnerability with my fear of judgement. It's quite the conundrum. On the one hand, I strongly believe that being honest about who I am - my fears, my struggles, my anger, my shame, my hopes, my dreams - makes for a whole me. Vulnerability gives room for God to work in my life. But if I am only honest with God in the privacy of my own room, my own mind, and my own heart, and put up a mask for the world around me, how is that being honest at all? How then can God use those around me to reflect His grace and mercy if no one outside of the Divine is allowed to know my weaknesses?

On the other hand, I can't control how the world chooses to perceive me. Any moment that I put myself out there, I am open to judgement. Even more terrifying, showing weakness sometimes leads to abandonment. This is a reality of the broken earth upon which we walk. People of God are sometimes the worst offenders - weakness is seen as some kind of lack of faith. Oh, we're allowed a certain amount of weakness, but persistent struggle? Life-long struggles? Surely if we trusted God more, let Him be more of a King in our lives, we would not struggle this hard.

I also know, because it was just about two years ago that I showed weakness and was rejected. The words spoken were, "Your life is full of fear." The words unspoken were, "And I want nothing to do with that, or you." Actually, the unspoken words really didn't need a voice, the actions that followed were clear enough.

The judgement and rejection came so quickly and so unexpectedly that I was stunned. Most of all the words struck deep. I was equally passionate then as I am now, about being vulnerable, so I had shared my fears quite openly. But instead of getting compassion, I got rejected - by someone I trusted and cared deeply about. The pain that comes from rejection after being vulnerable is a deep and special pain that shakes one to the core.

My heart shattered into a million pieces and I spiraled. I felt unwanted. Rejection sealed the lie that there was something wrong with me. Shame set in.

The Well-Meaning gathered around me pointing out truths such as, "The only opinion that matters is God's, not Man's," or "do not cast your pearls before swine" (i.e. whomever said that was just a bastard to begin with). There was lots of talk about guarding my heart and how I had given this person all this power by believing those blatantly untrue words.

None of this, however, made the pain go away and I languished in my sorrow. When weeks, turned into months, then into almost a year, there was more talk about how I needed to forgive, and move on. Those were also truths. But they were not helpful. All it did was cause more shame - shame that I couldn't take such truths and apply them. Shame that I could not forgive. Shame that somehow I hadn't given God this supreme place in my life and therefore was susceptible to something that was carelessly and foolishly said.

And the more open I was about this shame, about this fear, about this question about myself, more advice would come, more scripture, more quotes about Jesus. And then more shame set in. Finally, tired of feeling badly about myself, I just shut up. And everyone grew quiet and left me alone. I was relieved. Life moved on and I appeared to have moved on as well.

I've spent a lot of the last two years pondering how this experience has colored my belief that emotional vulnerability is a pathway that God can use to heal our souls. I know deep emotional vulnerability is painful, and now I am convinced it is also terrifying, not just to the person sharing, but also to those on the receiving end. I've wondered if sharing one's fears and struggles isn't just a tad bit overrated. Maybe by talking about our struggles we encourage a kind of victim mentality that keeps us stuck. Maybe one should just zip up, chin up, and put "more faith in Jesus" by simply believing, no questions asked about what that means, or how it's supposed to happen. A lot of people of faith do this - and they don't seem to be any worse for wear because of it, right?

I tried to be that way, I honestly did. Except that every time I tried, my mouth would move quicker than my head and I would blurt out what was on my heart without thinking. And every time I said something, it was incredibly truthful, and raw. Then I would blog, and each time I did, I would sob. Maybe it was from pain, or maybe it was just the relief of having a place to say what I was feeling deeply without fear of judgement - or advice. I wondered if my inability to hold it together was because I was weak - weak in my personhood, weak in my faith. I wondered if this rawness was just another sign of how these wounds have not healed, and how I have not moved on.

But every now and then I see this happening - I'm in a group, and we're talking about nothing in particular, and I share a story that's a little raw. I don't cry about it, or ask for advice. I simply tell the story as it is. I'm honest about what I've learnt and what I am still learning. There's a moment of silence, then inexplicably, everyone relaxes and starts to tell a story of their own along those lines. No one has a solution for anything, but yet, the group grows closer.

Or someone who's read my blog will say - wow, that was pretty honest. And I can see the longing in their eyes. For what, I'm not sure. But I suspect, the same kind of room to be honest as well.

This happens enough that I'm convinced I need to continue to be vulnerable about who I am, come what may. I know there's no guarantee that this kind of openness will be reciprocated, welcomed, or even grudgingly accepted. I know the sting of being rejected after I've opened my heart is a special kind of pain that is particularly unpleasant. But I also know that I am not weak for feeling this pain and being wary of it. In fact, it is because of strength that I am able to feel this pain, understand it, and still forge on being as honest as I know how.

For I have been made strong. I have been prepared. I am protected. Pain and rejection does not destroy me. There is nothing that happens to me that I have not already been made to handle.

I know this, because God said so.

No comments: