Posts Tagged ‘vulnerability’

I have a friend whose life phrase is “live loved” which she has adopted from the God Journey folks. It deeply resonates because of its simplicity and promise that we are loved and called to do the same for others.

Ephesians 5:2-3
Be imitators of God, a therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

It’s a two way process actually, but substantially begins with being loved (or recognizing that we are loved). Usually, we experience this love first as small children in the home. The better our parents were at loving and creating security in love, the better start we have. If that love is absent, then the search is on. We all search because we all know, inherently, that we are creatures of love. It is part of our DNA.

So much of what we do as young adults and teenagers is asking, “do you still love me?” If the answer appears to be “no,” then the search for “feeling loved” expands further. And if there is no model for being loved, the chance of picking up a counterfeit increases exponentially.

Although my father loved me, his age and alcoholism prevented him from being consistent. As a child, I forgave him everything (as children do), until he died when I was nine, and my heart interpreted that as the greatest betrayal of love ever. My mother, handicapped by her own losses and mental instabilities, did the best she could, but her love always seemed to carry a proviso, a burden, a condition.

So, I performed well to merit love, from her, from my friends, from the men in my life. I became an expert chameleon, the consummate actress in life as well as on the stage. Theater and acting seemed like the perfect solution: applause equaled love. All the while asking, am I worth loving now?

Even when I met God in Christ, I was still programmed to perform and earn love. I worked through the motions and the rules. I went to church. I married a Christian man. I wore Jesus jewelry and talked the Jesus talk. I lifted up my hands at the right times and depending on the setting, I danced and swayed.

Similar to the Verizon commercial, my heart would say, “Do you love me now?”

But with each year of performing, the mistakes piled up as well. There was that inner critique, the reviewer whose assessment was always harsh and blistering.

When was the release moment? I can’t really say. I think it started when I learned about “performance-orientation” from Elijah House. And then, from there, a counselor helped me accept the truth of Romans 8:1 (Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . ). And eventually, I came to really believe God loved me, failures, disappointments, and all.

And only then, I will truthfully say, did my journey to love God back begin in earnest. Only then, did I understand and experience freedom in my faith.

And what does loving God look like? I’m pretty sure it’s loving others and letting them love me. Today. I’ll start with today.

(Fast Day 2)

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The right words at the right moment touch the heart and something happens. It can be a moment in a play or a movie, a speech or a book, even a casual conversation or in the midst of instruction. And when that word pierces the inner self, we are changed.

I Corinthians 14:24-25a
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.

I saw this happen some years ago while in a church service. I had a friend who had been struggling with lifestyle decisions. He was like a feather being tossed about, looking for a safe place to land. I invited him to a Vineyard church service in Atlanta (back then, such services were cutting edge and specifically geared for the younger set). After the service, one of the guys asked my friend if a small group could pray for him and my friend agreed. It was during this prayer that someone in the group spoke a “prophecy” over my friend about an impending choice in his life. She told him of his past and his fears. She spoke specifics about his life and my friend’s heart was laid bare. It was the most amazing thing to observe. He knew, in that moment, beyond any doubt, that he had been touched by the divine.

That day is seared into my own memory, not only because of the time in church, but the deep soul searching my friend had the rest of the afternoon. He would go through periods of shaking and crying and even laughing. He would sit silently and then he would talk, deeply and honestly, about his life, his future, his mistakes, his losses, his hopes and his disappointments. He turned a corner that day and for many years, he followed a new dream because of that day.

I remember a different experience, also in my late twenties, when my own heart was ripped wide open. It is not a particularly pleasant memory as it was a searing, rending of emotions that brought me to my knees. I had only been a follower of Christ for about two years when I had a terrible row with a creative, yet highly volatile man, with whom I was trying to build a dance/theater company in New York. His harsh words stripped me bare of any illusions about my craft, my direction, my role. I left our rehearsal and walked the parking lot, sobbing, crying out to God, stripping myself of assumptions, and casting myself at the feet of Christ. That day changed my path forever.

When the heart is truly laid bare, it can happen gently with love or it can happen with wrenching pain. Often, the pain comes from our own efforts to keep the heart’s shield up, to attempt to protect ourselves.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” [Psalm 24:7] For me, this verse refers to the gates and ancient doors of my heart that must be open to allow the King of glory to come in. I have to trust God will not hurt me. I have to permit entry. And only when my heart is laid bare, the doors open, can I be renewed.

I would like to report that my heart has been open the whole time since that fateful day, but it has not. In fact, each time my heart has been trashed by someone, I tend to add locks and bars to those doors. God forgive me.

Today, I am being called to begin this process once more: the unlocking of doors, the lifting up of gates, the laying bare of my inner heart again. It’s a risk. It’s always a risk. It’s another paradox: to find safety, I must be more vulnerable. So be it.

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