“We’re going to be thinking about vulnerability on Sunday,” my small group leader said, and something deep inside me groaned.
“And we might as well start now,” he continued. “Let’s go round and share a highlight from the week and something for prayer.”
Something deep inside me wanted to get up and walk right out the door.
The strength of my reaction surprised me. I was with a group of people I was coming to know and trust, and I had actually prayed that God would give me the opportunity to deepen my friendship with them. This was the perfect opportunity, and yet I was resisting it.
It left me pondering: what is it that makes vulnerability so hard?
Maybe it’s not that way for everyone. Some people seem to talk easily about their deepest thoughts and feelings to anyone who will listen, but, for me, it’s always an effort.
Part of it is being an introvert: when I’m put on the spot, the words don’t always come easily even when I want to share. Vulnerability comes much more easily when I write, when I have the chance to process slowly, to choose the words and shape the sentences carefully, to be sure that I’m saying what I want to say.
Part of it is down to upbringing: growing up in a family who often seemed to hide behind a facade of “fine,” where smiles were pasted over the cracks and problems were considered to be private, doesn’t exactly make it easy to open up.
Part of it is simply habit: for years I carried a pain so deep that the thought of ever telling anyone seemed impossible. I became used to guarding my tongue, projecting the right image, coating the brokenness with a veneer of achievement and capability. And even though that particular secret was shared long ago, habits can be hard to break.
Yet despite the amount of effort it takes to dredge the depths of my soul and express my difficult feelings aloud, I know it’s worth it. I have experienced first-hand the power of taking off my mask and allowing myself to be seen.
When I first shared my long-held secret, of abuse experienced as a child, it was difficult and it was painful, but it was also the path to healing—to understanding the truth that I was not to blame, to freedom from the endless questions running through my mind about what people would think of me if they knew, to greater self-acceptance, and to increased joy and peace.
It allowed me to testify to the way God had helped me and sustained me through the years of hiding in the darkness, how he had revealed his love to me and built my trust in him to the point where I was ready to speak and bring it all into the light.
1 John 1:5-7 (NIV) says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
That’s why that night at small group I resisted the urge to groan or to leave, and instead, I shared. And not just at a superficial level—I chose to make myself vulnerable and go deep. My words were faltering and my message not entirely coherent, but it was real and it was honest. People responded with love and compassion and I could tell that some of them knew how hard it was for me.
Vulnerability may always be a battle for some of us, but it’s a battle I will continue to fight, because deep down I long for authentic community and friendships deeper than surface level, and learning to open up is the only way.
There is power in coming into the light and allowing ourselves to be known as we are. It is the path to true fellowship with others, and it allows Jesus’ power to work in those broken places. Maybe that’s the real reason why coming into the light can be so hard: because the darkness fights so fiercely to silence us and keep us captive.