"When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive."
My professor spoke it with such conviction that it immediately struck a chord in me and I quickly wrote it down in my notebook.
"When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive. If I am not willing to be open and raw and vulnerable, others will not find freedom to go to that place."
As I finish out this semester, I look back on where God has brought me over these past four months and I am overwhelmed. From my new position as a resident assistant to my new relationship to a new floor and a new major and new job responsibilities and new ministry involvements and a new church and new friends, this semester was challenging. Perhaps "challenging" is not a strong enough word to evoke the emotions that I felt this semester during times when I was literally so exhausted I couldn't move or so sick I couldn't get out of bed. Or every day that I have been humbled in class as I realize more and more how little I know about the very things I am pursuing to do with my future. Or the times when I sat in tears as I saw the dark depths of my soul to a level I had never faced before. Or the moments when I fought with the Lord over these dark places of my heart and the tugging He had placed on my heart to share these places with others.
"If I am not willing to be open and raw and vulnerable, others will not find freedom to go to that place."
Yes, Lord. But I am afraid. I am afraid of love because I am afraid of loss.
I am convinced that to be vulnerable is the greatest act of love that anyone can ever perform, the deepest kind of love that anyone can ever give. To be vulnerable is to reveal pieces of your heart that perhaps no one has ever seen; it is to give a very tender and valuable piece of yourself to the care of someone else, risking heartache and loss if not received well by the one you choose to give it to. Yes, to risk love is to risk pain and loss and heartache; yet I believe that to isolate ourselves within the confines of the walls we build up around our hearts is to risk a life of joylessness, loneliness, and a degree of pain and loss and heartache that the one who risks love will never know.
And, so, this semester I chose to tear down the walls. To be vulnerable to a degree I had never been before. To risk being vulnerable to see if perhaps this freedom that was promised me really was the reward of a heart left open and raw before others. To see if I truly believed that Christ had come to set me free.
I sat with my boyfriend at the lake, just me and him and a boat that raced across the water in a seemingly purposeless route. Empty beer cans were strewn across the graffiti covered rocks, no doubt the leftovers from a teenage bonfire. The moon created a spotlight above us and the water crashed continuously against the rocky crags that were before us. It was the perfect place for me to share these deep places of my heart; the contrast between the beauty of the moon and lake and the disastrous mess of beer cans and graffiti around us was reflective of the disastrous mess of my heart and the beauty of God's infinite and incredible grace that was poured over me that night as my heart was exposed and God's grace covered it.
I sat before four of the women on my floor who I am in leadership over. Don't share, the Enemy sneered. They'll see who you really are and no longer respect you. Praise Jesus for the strength and courage that come from Him in the moments of greatest weakness. I laid my heart out, raw and open and vulnerable, and it was met with love and gratitude and respect. Share, my Savior pleads. They'll see more of who I really am; My strength in your weakness and My grace in your mess. He received glory and I received freedom.
I sat before eleven other women, highly esteemed women who I am in leadership with. Hide. Build up your walls. Feel shame. I was beginning to feel the spiritual battle in my flesh as my hands began to shake. I shared my testimony, this time testifying to God's grace more deeply than usual as I testified to my own depravity more honestly than usual. More grace and love were poured out on me and I left with a full heart of joy and grace and love. And freedom.
My boyfriend came running over to me, took my hand and led me to a bench down the street where I shared and he sat in silence, where I cried and he wiped away my tears, where I spoke despair and he sang words of forgiveness over me. When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there who made an end of all my sin. Because a sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the Just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me. He sang the words until they penetrated the guilt covering my heart, and forgiveness and grace washed over it. Praise Jesus for His grace. And praise Him for a boyfriend who has shown me more than anyone else the love of Christ in offering grace where there should only be condemnation, forgiveness and acceptance where there should only be bitterness and rejection.
I sat with my mom, holding back tears and words that I knew needed to pour out. Hold back. You don't need to do this; in fact, it'd be better if you didn't. Praise Jesus for speaking over these irrational thoughts that were entering my mind and giving me the strength to be weak. And praise Him for a mother who has shown me more than anyone else the love of Christ in crying with those who mourn and taking on the burdens of others and making them her own. That night, she cried with me and took on my burden. Love washed over me and my burden was made light.
This semester, I have felt a greater depth of freedom than I have ever felt before. It is the kind of freedom that brings me to tears and draws me to my Savior. It is the kind of freedom that gives me the passion behind this life that I am living for Him. It is the kind of freedom that has deepened my relationships and enriched my life. The kind of freedom that has allowed others to go to the same depths and experience the same freedom. The kind of freedom that gives life.
When I am raw and vulnerable is when I am most fully alive. Fully alive. I have never felt so fully alive, so full of life and love and joy and wonder that cause me to dance and sing and worship and write and love and smile and laugh and live.
His Grace is enough. I have opened my heart up to experience this, to prove this, to believe this. To close off the depths of my heart are to close off the depths of God's grace from being displayed, thus robbing God of the display of glory that He deserves in my life. Freedom is offered to the one who takes the risk to be vulnerable, to love, to richly display the Savior's glory and grace. Pray for the strength to be weak; for it is in our times of greatest weakness and vulnerability that His strength and grace are most vividly displayed.