My therapist and I talk a lot about emotions because I’m not very vulnerable and she’s my therapist and that’s her job. She has a piece of paper that stays on the floor by my feet with a list of eight emotions I can look at in case I panic when she asks how I’m feeling. These umbrella emotions are anger, sad, glad, lonely, hurt, shame, fear, and guilt. In the first few months, I could only admit to being glad and guilty— partly because I was in denial I had been hurt at all, partly because I didn’t think my pain mattered in light of everyone else’s, and partly because I had no idea what I was feeling since I hadn’t really felt in a long while.* After I talked to her about the deepest wounds of my heart, I ended every sentence with, “I’m okay though,” and dug my head into a pillow until it didn’t feel awkward anymore.
She always responded with, “Do you believe Jesus asks you to live a life of okay?”
I knew she was right, but I was so deeply afraid of vulnerability that I decided living an okay life was better than ever feeling hurt or sad or ashamed again. So week after week, I tried to convince myself I was okay with being okay. I wasn’t sad about being abused. I wasn’t hurt by my family. I wasn’t angry at the people who chose to hide behind church ministry instead of defending me. I wasn’t ashamed of being abused or addicted to porn or masturbation. I wasn’t ashamed of my body or the eating disorder I developed in high school. I wasn’t angry at God. I wasn’t afraid of marriage and commitment or the sex that would consequently happen after marriage and commitment. I was okay, and that was that.
The thing about God is he doesn’t leave us where we are, or even where we want to be left, but brings us deeper into grace. And that’s exactly what cracked me: grace.
By his grace, I realized an invulnerable heart not only affected my human relationships but deeply affected my relationship with God. If I was not willing to let my guard down, I limited the intimacy with which I could experience him. It’s not that God was limited—he can do whatever he wants. He could’ve taken my heart, turned it upside down, and made me into a vulnerability queen in two seconds. Instead, though, he gently and kindly wooed me into intimacy: Return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Have you ever thought about how vulnerable Jesus was? He was touchable, reachable, understandable. His friends asked questions and he answered truthfully. He felt compassion. He cried. The majestic, eternal King who had legions of angels at his fingertips cried. He felt sadness. He laughed. He was angry. He poured himself out as an offering, setting for us an example of a life lived for the sake of the world and the glory of God.
Let us learn from his example, then, and also live vulnerably.
Let us bravely give our lives as an offering to him.
Let us move from an okay life to a life of fullness.
Because okay is not okay, and there are deeper levels of intimacy for us to tread.
*Also, I always thought emotions were a sign of weakness and I felt a compulsive need to have everything together. Which is pride. Which is not, unfortunately, one of the eight umbrella emotions.