I am looking at a dusty table right now. It is completely covered in dust. There is a basket of clean clothes in the next room that has been sitting there for three days. Dirty dishes have taken over my sink and the toilet has this incessant ring – no matter how many times I scrub it away it always comes back with a vengeance.
But let’s get really honest.
I wore the same pair of pants three days this week – without washing them. There is dog hair floating around my living room. If I were to swipe my arm under the couch I’m sure I would find stale pizza crust, rogue pen caps, and a treasure trove of MIA hair ties. My toe nails are longer than there are hours in the day, and my computer buttons have crumbs in the cracks.
But I’m still not being completely honest.
I pick my nose. In the car. I think when we’re in the car we feel like the windows are those police station mirrors – we can see out but no one can see in. Not true. People can totally see everything you do when you drive your car. One time a student caught me picking my nose. I am being completely for real. She must have been driving on my same well tread path to school. I blew it off, but secretly, I knew she had witnessed it.
These are just external things. Dirty houses are easier to talk about than dirty habits. Toenails hidden beneath pretty shoes have simpler solutions than secrets hidden behind forced smiles. Revealing the fact that I pick my nose is less dangerous than exposing my inability to pick up the pieces and get my life together. But easy rarely means better. Just because it’s easier to sew my mouth shut and trap the scary stuff inside doesn’t mean it’s going to make everything okay again.
When we refuse to release the Krackens of deep seeded pain inside, they wreak havoc. We become insecure, we refuse to trust, we hold everyone at arm’s length. What seemed easy in the first place creates more problems than we had to begin with. What we don’t tell tends to make us sick. Those external pressures can pile on top of the internal ones and all of a sudden we are in a full on war with ourselves.
All because we deny the real reason we are miserable.
We won’t tell anyone what’s really going on.
“If you decide to share that thing with the world, you’ll never be accepted again.”
“No one’s marriage is that broken.”
“You are the only person who struggles with porn.”
“Lost causes like you are hopeless.”
“You’ll never get over your past.”
“Just give up. Why keep trying?”
Vulnerability is like the superhero that shows up at just the right time to kick the villain in the face. When we choose to add a zipper to our soul and open it up, it’s pretty terrifying. But in the right context, freeing our secrets can allow us to breathe again.
This girl I knew – she met this boy. He was older and perfect and athletic and all the things. He told her she had the most beautiful voice in the world. She was all fluttery and girlie and ridiculous over him. But he would get super angry. Once he even left her in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night in the middle of a state park in the middle of nowhere. He yelled raunchy names at her in the middle of a cafeteria. He tried to take from her – things she didn’t want to give away. He told her when to go to sleep. He gave her curfews. He stalked her window at night.
It took me months to tell.
I thought it was all my fault – him being angry. I thought I loved him. And to tell would mean I was weak and stupid and that girl. That girl who let a boy drag her around, lose her friends, erase her identity. Telling meant I would expose my feebleness, my frailty, my ability to lose control. I would have to admit that I got sucked into the neediness of needing to be needed. My persona of strong woman would disappear. I was just another cog in the abusive relationship assembly line.
Super Vulnerability rescued me from a dangerous ride – one of those old, rusty carnival rides that looks like it might rock off the tracks at any moment and wipe out everyone in the general vicinity. Every time I share my story, I see the “God never wastes a hurt” headline on an old church sign. The only way out of pain is through it. And, admitting my pain – every time – adds a cool, balmy salve to my wound. And rather than licking it, guarding it with growls and bared teeth, I’m sharing it.
I escaped that relationship with only emotional scars. My sweet Dad unintentionally rescued me from physical damage. But those memories are still very real, complete in HD, big screen clarity. So speaking words about them began with a whisper. Years later, I share openly about the details and I use my experience to help girls who are at the edge of the vacuum, hiding their neediness, not knowing just how obvious it is.
I understand that you can’t tell just anyone. But when I finally spilled my secrets, I was so full of sickness that I was willing to vomit on anyone who would actually, finally listen. I tripped into an office and blew chunks of aching agony on a counselor who gently helped me process the picture slideshow that played a constant loop in my brain. The relief that came each time I met with her lessened the pressure cooker that threatened to explode, tearing my heart into irreparable pieces. She held my hand and gave me the tools I needed to begin restoration.
But I had to be vulnerable.
I had to tell my story.
I had to.
Not telling would mean the thief would win.
In John 10:10 it tells us that “the thief [Satan] comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”
The thief used that boy to steal from me, try to kill me, attempt to destroy me.
It was a bloody massacre. Trust was drowning, self-esteem was hyperventilating, my sense of worth was shutting down. The anger of internal wounds was running rampant in my veins, a nasty infection of unforgiveness. It was a fast spreading virus threatening to take out every living cell.
All because a boy.
Jesus had different ideas about that. You see, he comes so we can have life. That’s the ultimate antidote. And community means we have stuff in common. But we can’t find what’s in common if we never share the stuff.
Like I’m sharing with you right now.
I stared at my screen for a while before I wrote this. And it’s been over 20 years since the boy. I still don’t like to admit it, write it down, rip the bandaid off that old scar. But there’s a girl. Or a boy. Reading this. And you need to choose vulnerable. Maybe it’s that thing that happened to you when you were little. You’ve kept it locked up in that tiny room deep, deep inside. Maybe it’s your dirty habit. The habit you cover up with churchy-ness and judgy-ness. Maybe it’s the island you’ve created with big electric fences that zaps people when they try and swim close.
You’ve yet to discover Super Vulnerability. The hero that offers you the opportunity to unlock the tiny room, throw the churchy, judgy stuff away, and tear out the fence. But you want to know the coolest part? You don’t do the unlocking, throwing, or tearing.
You just have to say, “Okay.”
I bet Paul didn’t really want to tell the story of his alter-ego Saul who tortured Christians. Rahab probably wanted to forget the prostitute part of her story. Moses would have preferred to leave out the time he killed that Egyptian guy. But we read those stories and nod our heads a little in understanding, in common-ness, in “hey, I’m not such an idiot”-ness. We see these epic Bible people messing up – and their stories flayed out for centuries – billions of people reading their mistakes, sharing them, making cartoons and flannel boards about them.
Just say “okay” my friend. The emptiness you’re afraid will come afterward can be filled up with the grace faucet Jesus can turn on. If you ask him to fill those throbbing sensitive spaces he won’t disappoint. He’ll crank that baby on – like one of those fire hydrants spraying all over the sidewalk in the summer. You just need to find a way to choose to be vulnerable.
So who do you tell?
I found a professional. But I started with my mom. Later I told one of my future bridesmaids. Then a girl who felt lonely. Then a student who was replacing lack of Daddy love with boys. And each time, Jesus uses me to be the grace faucet for someone else, to pour out fresh love on shredded gashes. I am the hope that she isn’t alone. I am the “comm”on part of community. We have so much in common but we aren’t using vulnerability as the vehicle to drive us to safety.
The second half of John 10:10 says that although the thief comes to destroy us, Jesus comes so that we can have life to the full! That full part is all operated and owned by Jesus. And he uses his faucet. It’s that cool mist you feel when you pass by a sprinkler on a scorching hot day. It’s the waterfall spray at Niagra. It’s the deep pool at the end of the twisty waterslide. But it’s all refreshing, real, and ultimately, the remedy.
It’s a simple choice with amazingly easy, complicated results.
It starts when you say, “okay”.
This opening chapter could be the beginning of your healing.
Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself.
“Carrie, um, this is pretty bold. I mean, you’re expecting me to just pour out my junk and be done with it now? You think I should find someone ‘safe’ and tell them my secrets? You want me to, I mean, seriously, tell the truth about my past?”
Yep. I do. Because before we start this big, exciting, crazy wild adventure, you’ve got to let go. Our growth is often most hindered by the stuff we’re stuffing. Anger, hurt, unforgiveness – they’re like this big brick wall that we keep crashing into until our heads are bloody and we can’t get past it to see the rockin’ mountain view on the other side. It’s like your favorite stainless steel coffee mug that is too thin to stick your hand in – and there’s leftover coffee stuff stuck in the bottom. You have to get that special small brush to dig down inside and clean out the gross – or you can never truly enjoy coffee in that mug again. Now, I’ve tried. I’ll just leave it there and keep on pouring the coffee in. But then the stuff grows and gets grosser and eventually it’s sticky and moldy looking – like it definitely could give me a disease.
That’s what we let all the past stuff do – grow and get grosser and sticky and moldy. It taints everything else with sadness and disease. The coffee that could bring so much joy is just not the same. Every time I drink it I think of the gross stuff at the bottom of the mug. And every time you try and live the John 10:10 mantra – life to the full, you are affected by that “thing” in the bottom of the mug that you haven’t let Jesus clean up.
Every big change starts with a decision. A choice. It doesn’t mean that everything will just up and disappear – but you have to start somewhere. Think of this chapter, this book, as that very special brush that can actually reach to the deepest places of your favorite coffee mug. You’ve bought the brush – now you’ve got to start scrubbing. But here’s the cool thing. Super Vulernability allows someone to help you scrub. You’re not alone in the scrubbing. You might even find someone who is a pro at that particular brush – or someone who might know a better tool to begin the process. But there’s hope for you.
I could have started with a floofy chapter that made you feel really good about yourself – something you’ve already chosen to do or something that is super easy to choose. And hey, some of you might be saying, “I’ve done that! I’ve told my truth! I’ve let go of my secrets!” And to you, my friends, I say, “Keep it up!” But when I look deep inside myself, Super Vulnerability is a continual process that I have to consciously choose to keep doing. It’s not an automatic thing – we’re scared that the world doesn’t like to hear our brokenness – because it means that they are probably broken, too. So we have to teach ourselves to live in community – where we share the things, see that they are common, and free ourselves of the stuff in our cups that keeps us from tasting life to the full.
Gone are the days of allowing the stuff of our past to control the stuff of our future. We are choosing the Best Day Ever Adventure! And the thief – that thief who wants to destroy us – well, he’s gonna have quite the battle. Because Super Vulnerability’s got some power tricks up her sleeve that will thwart the thief’s strategies for sure. It may not be a simple process, but it starts with a simple choice.
Just open your mouth, take a deep breath, and say, “Okay.”
This excerpt was taken from the first chapter of my book, Choose: An Invitation to the Best Day Ever Adventure, which you can purchase here. At the end of each chapter you are challenged to make a choice and take the challenge to change. This chapter, Choose Vulnerability, is the first of 21 challenging chapters to choose in order to live The Best Day Ever Adventure! Join us!