As I shattered the mirror with a hairbrush, you could have heard a pen drop in the room. The illustration highlighted how broken I felt on both the inside and the outside. I initially hesitated in sharing my struggle with anorexia within a public forum. However, the more I prayed, the more I felt convicted that I needed to finally own and share my story.
My experience speaking at that Girls’ Conference was one of my first times to begin to understand vulnerability. As I stood on stage, I felt raw and exposed. Yet, at the same time, for the first time, a great sense of courage and healing filled my soul. Sociologist and leading vulnerability expert, Brene Brown, defines the term as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” These were certainly the emotions I felt at the time.
I believe God desires for us to live a vulnerable life. In doing so, we draw closer to the Father. Jesus often challenged those he encountered to let go of the ideas that hide their true selves and own their story. One example which occurs in all the Synoptic Gospels is the healing of the woman who struggled with a hemorrhage for twelve years. Since her condition left her unclean and unable to participate amongst the rest of the community, she sneaks in to see Jesus. Seeking to remain anonymous and unnoticed, the woman touches the fringe of Jesus’ garment. Jesus immediately notices his power has gone from him and calls out to the crowd for the person who touched him to come forward. Though fearful, the woman throws herself at the Savior’s feet and tells him the whole truth. In response, Jesus commends her faith and blesses her.
This pericope highlights several principles for vulnerability.
1. Vulnerability starts with an acknowledgement of a need. The woman struggled with her condition for years and spent all her money on fruitless efforts of healing. She was at a point of desperation and was determined to get an answer.
2. Vulnerability requires trust. The reason why the woman approached Jesus is because she believed in His healing power. She knew that if He was the Messiah, direct contact would not be necessary for healing, only a touch of his garment (Matthew 9:21).
3. Vulnerability requires ownership. After the woman throws herself at Jesus’ feet, she tells him the whole truth of what happened. In other words, she took ownership of her story and her testimony. By doing so, she could bear witness to the healing power of Jesus, confess her actions, and connect with the one in whom she had placed her faith (Mark 5:33).
4. Vulnerability results in peace. Jesus responds to the woman’s confession with great affection. Matthew’s version of the story records Jesus giving the woman a specific exhortation to take courage. The Greek word used in this passage means to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances. These are words of strength rather than weakness, illustrating her bravery in coming forward.
The evening after my talk, a middle school girl asked to speak to me. She began to tell me how she struggled with body image and how my talk helped her have the courage to ask for help. My willingness to share my journey allowed her to trust me with her story. After praying together and discussing actions steps for her to tell her parents, I reflected on the experience. I realized that my ability to be vulnerable with others allowed another person to get the help they needed.
Since that experience over ten years ago, I have learned to be more open in my relationship with others. This has allowed me to grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Dr. Brown adequately summarizes the healing power of vulnerability in her book Daring Greatly. She writes,
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
When we recognize our need, own our story, and trust in a reliable person to hear our story, we will find peace and healing.
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Cortney is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at www.unveilinggraces.blogspot.