I led Young Life for years and years. When you arrived at camp, there was one thing they would always say in your first Leader Meeting. We would sit in that cramped leader lounge, smelly from a long bus trip and chugging coffee to prepare for the week ahead. The head leaders would quiet us down, smile, and say, “You made it, congratulations.” They would go over logistics and then start to talk about cabin time. And every time, without fail, they would remind us: “Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.”
I think this is true for everyday life, although recently I feel like I’ve been testing its limits. A couple Sundays ago, we dragged ourselves into the church after a super tough morning with my stepdaughter. Poor little one has been going through a lot of transition recently and I did not respond well. I lost my patience, I screwed up. Getting to church at all felt like a bigger miracle than feeding the five thousand.
My friend Becca saw me walking Nyra to Sunday School. I must have looked especially bedraggled because she immediately said, “Hey….are you okay?” She was probably expecting, “Oh yeah, fine! Just tired!”
Instead, I took a deep breath and said, “Nope not really. I screamed at the child this morning for the first time ever. Screamed. Still kind of mad, and then had to ask forgiveness from a five-year-old; So not great!” And then in that brief moment, I felt that panic that I had said too much. “Now Becca knows I’m crazy. Just stop talking. Say you’re kidding. Maybe you can contain this.”
I’m not sure what I expected her to do, but she did just what I needed. She looked at me and said, “That is really okay and that really makes sense. We all lose it sometimes. You are doing great.”
We lose so much opportunity when we don’t tell the truth about how we’re really doing. We lose wisdom, empathy, grace. When we put up walls and say, “I’M REALLY FINE. JUST TIRED” through gritted teeth, there’s no space there for other people to also tell us the truth about who we are. And we need it. I need it. It’s so easy to feel like we are too much.
What I have known for years is that the truth sets us free. It’s so easy to isolate ourselves and say, “No one understands. No one would get it, even if I told them. I am the only one who feels this way.” I swear that if the Enemy has a favorite lie it’s, “You are alone. You are the only one who has ever felt this way.” The truth brings all of our shame into the light, it tells the darkness that it no longer has any hold.
What we find as well is that the more we tell the truth; we give other people permission to tell the truth too. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. The truth sets us free, but it sets others free too. They think to themselves, “If she can tell the truth, maybe I can too. Life is much harder than I thought and I am not okay.”
This is the truth: I am barely making it a lot of days. I love my husband madly, but this adjustment period is tough on both of us. Some nights, at 11 pm before I go to bed, I sneak into Nyra’s room, cover her up, and kiss her on the forehead and say, “Love you, sweet girl”. Then in a mumbled asleep voice, every now and then she’ll say “Mmmhmm love you too night.” In those brief spans of time, life feels sweet and so able to be handled.
And some nights, I sit on my kitchen floor and cry and tell God out loud, that I do not like this at all, thank you very much. I tell him that being in a blended family is too hard and in case He did not hear me the first time, “I DO NOT LIKE THIS VERY MUCH RIGHT NOW.”
I am so thankful that I can tell Jesus the truth, and that He tells it right back to us. You are Mine, You are Loved, You are Enough. That is the truth. Don’t listen to the lies.
Whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.