I'm experiencing an uncomfortable emotion. It's one of my least favorite ones. I'm usually well equipped to experience disappointment or happiness, anger or peace. But there's one that I'm adept at avoiding and it's vulnerability.
I feel out there. Exposed. Open. I don't have any mounted defenses and my back is not securely against mountain and defensible. Instead I'm standing in the middle of an open field with nothing. Who the hell knows what could happen next? I dislike that feeling STRONGLY. So much so that I immediately know all of the things (emotionally, physically, mentally, verbally) I should do to run and hide and make it stop. For the love of God be safe woman! Vulnerability is dangerous. Knock it off! Get out of the middle of the field and find a rock to hide under already. What the hell are you doing?
After some education about my reaction to this emotion I know that my soul/brain/body whatever is just trying to protect me from perceived danger. Although if you ask me right now, I'd probably tell you that this danger is the very opposite of perceived it is real!!!! I could educate you about all of the possible risks inherent in standing in the middle of that field. Thoroughly.
But the calm part of me that keeps surfacing (victoriously at the moment) keeps reminding me that this feeling of vulnerability comes with living authentically. To live in real relationship with other people requires risk. To live out my calling and life as it should be requires risk. To say no when no is the right thing for me requires risk, people might get mad, for heaven's sake what would happen then? To say yes, this is really what I'm experiencing to another person is a huge risk. Risk makes me feel naked and exposed. And that is not a way I like to feel. To sit there in that discomfort thinking.... now what?
Now I've just put myself out there. Now I've just said out loud that I could possibly be a pastor one day and well what if my family judges me? Now I've just said out loud how I'm feeling and well what if the person I said it to doesn't honor that? Now I've just spoken my need into the middle of that field and what if no one comes or listens or cares? Now I've just said no to someone I care about and what if they're angry and hurt?
I don't have this down. I'm an expert hider. I wear that shit like it's my job. Hiding. Yep. I'm good at that. But I know what all that hiding has cost me. The cost has been high. I have lost relationships that I didn't want to lose. I've kept relationships far longer than necessary. I've tolerated being abused and mistreated for fear of speaking up for myself and not having those closest to me believe me. I have hurt others by not speaking truthfully to them when they needed to know what was going on for me emotionally. I held that back and hurt them because I was afraid of being hurt myself. That's some irony for you. I self protected and hurt others. I self protected and hurt myself. I self protected and I'm sure that has cost my children.
This standing in the middle of the field shit and saying, yep this is my truth. And I'm really afraid you're not going to like it. Or you're not going to approve. Or you're going to leave because God knows everyone leaves me. None of that changes this being my truth.
I'm in seminary. There's a decent chance at the end of this journey I can end up being one of a few things: a pastor, a professor or continuing on to my doctorate. I'm terrified you may judge me for doing any of those things. So I routinely tell people I'm going to be a professor, it seems like the most socially acceptable thing for me to say and people judge me the least. But that's not the whole truth. The whole truth is I'd really love to get my doctorate, like really really love. Life long dream kind of love. But I fear that I'm not nearly smart enough, and those close to me would scoff if they knew that's what I wanted to do. But if I could pastor in a non-traditional setting like Ikon I would feel honored and humbled to do something like that with my life. Would I also love to be a professor one day? Hells yeah. Absolutely. That would be awesome. But I'm not going to hedge the truth for you anymore. Even when my family who looks at me like I'm a little crazy for considering any or all of those options.
It's also the truth that I have emotions. Ones that I'm not so crazy about admitting to other people. I love people that have a high probability of hurting me. I love people who continually hurt me but it doesn't stop how I feel about them (some days I really wish it would). I care about and really wish I knew how some of my friends I lost in the divorce are doing. I miss them still. I want deep loving mutual relationships in my life and yet I have very few. I feel like I have worked hard on maintaining those relationships but often for naught. The desire on the other side isn't there. That's hurtful even though I know it likely has little to do with me. I have a lot of other emotions as well, fear, anxiety, happiness, joy, anticipation, desire. But those are all easier to admit and make me feel less vulnerable then saying:
"I love you"
"I love you and you left and that doesn't stop me caring about you."
"I love you and I'd love to know how your children are doing, they seem so big and Facebook just doesn't cut it because I remember you carrying every single one of them."
"I love you and the fact that you never initiate a phone call makes me question why I care."
"I love you and you might leave."
"I love you but often times your words are harsh and unkind and I don't know how to talk to you about that."
"I love you but you don't seem to love me in return."
Living in love with other people requires risk. Jesus talked about it all the time. Love one another. My cliff hiding days are probably not over. I'll probably return to my familiar self protection mode once and a while. But I know that learning to live in the discomfort of vulnerability, learning to live in the middle of the field and speak my truth, that is worth it. Because my God lives that way, in the middle of the field, telling me he loves me. Telling all of us he does. He is continually being rejected, unloved in return, told he's not enough.
So if my God can experience as much rejection as he has maybe I'm not alone in that field after all. He's standing there right with me. Perhaps with him by my side I can stay in the discomfort a little longer.