A blank page sits in front of me, an allusion to the message that I’m both hopeful and fearful will soon spread across it. The message, like the mysterious potential of the page, is oxymoronic and it embodies opportunity and risk, success and failure, love and heartbreak, beauty and messiness, joy and fear. It is a cracked door that makes one tremble with both anticipation and dread. It is what we run from but desire, what we hate but need. This message has been churning inside of me, a big scary word that interrupts my thoughts and conversations, just as it interrupts the blankness of this page: vulnerability.
Vulnerability: an opportunity for greatness or disaster. In being vulnerable you put yourself in the line of fire for potential rejection, scrutiny, or loss but you also give the deepest parts of yourself permission to feel. For me, to write the words you read is vulnerability. To dream and to believe is to be vulnerable. To love is the epitome of vulnerability.
I’m reminded of a blog I wrote this summer called “The Unfiltered Truth”. In that blog I exposed my heart about the immense pain of the love I feel for the people I encounter around the world. I talked about the heartbreaking burden I carry for them and how in opening myself up to love them I am also opening my heart to experience their pain. Pictures of people being miraculously healed and experiencing the love of their Father replay in my mind but they are accompanied with memories of children falling into the grips of poverty and days spent weeping with families who lost a loved one.
Tonight I watched a movie called Little Boy, about the family of a man who was a prisoner of war during WWII, focusing on his young, smaller-than-average son. Upon finding out that his father was taken captive he decided to believe that his daddy would come home. He diligently carried out acts of faith from a list given to him by a priest, refusing to give up, even in the midst of ridicule and accusation. His older brother, on the other hand, drank his bitterness away and convinced himself that he would never see his father’s face again. One night, wanting to smother all faith to protect the emotions of his family, he said to his mother, “What are you going to tell Pepper (the young brother) when we find out that Dad isn’t coming home?”
At the climax of the story, in a powerful moment when everything looked grim, Pepper began to lose heart and said “Maybe it was stupid of a midget like me to believe I could bring my father back with some stupid list.” To which his wise friend replied, “It was not stupid. It takes courage to believe. All the love you had for your father was contained in that list.” I won’t tell you how the story ends but I will say that Pepper didn’t give up on his vulnerably courageous faith, and he never regretted holding on to the love he had for his father.
Looking at the two brothers in the movie it was clear who the hero was. He wasn’t the one who thought practically or who “guarded his heart” ferociously. He was the one who took the risk of believing even when it looked foolish, who exposed his heart to feeling even when it meant potential devastation. If it was so clear to anyone watching that movie, then why do we so quickly tend to follow in the footsteps of the older brother when it comes to our feelings? Why do we try so hard to close ourselves off to potential pain without realizing that we are also closing ourselves off to the ability to hope and believe and love? Why do we celebrate those who take risks but don’t dare to step out and be vulnerable ourselves?
So what do we do to jump into this looming risk of love and faith?
I have only a matter of months before I step foot on a plane that will carry me into a world of unknown. A place where I will love people, pray for miracles, attempt new things, make a fool of myself. A place where I will have no choice but to live vulnerably every single day. It is absolutely terrifying. But honestly, being here at home for this season is just as terrifying. This is a place where I have to forfeit any attempts to shut down my emotions and chose to love deeply even though I know I will have to say goodbye. I have to invest fully even when I know it is temporary. I have to continue to make memories even when I fear they will be forgotten when I’m gone. I have to tell myself over and over again, “Love deeply, hold loosely,” because vulnerability is freedom.
Vulnerability is freedom to love even when there is pain, to believe even when it is impossible, to embody joy even when sorrow looms around the corner, and to dream even when you fear you will crash and burn. So let us allow the messages of our lives to spill across the stark white pages. Let us give our hearts permission to dream, to love, to believe. Let us embark on this journey courageously, experiencing true freedom through stepping out on the edge of the cliff of vulnerability and leaping into the unknown.
The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows