Beneath Our Armor
Many years ago, when I was just beginning my career as an ordained pastor, the lead pastor of the church I served gave me some advice I've tried to ignore ever since.
He offered some constructive criticism after a sermon I preached, in which I shared that I often had doubts regarding my faith. That kind of vulnerability was too much for him.
"Never let them [your congregation] see the cracks in your armor," he told me.
He then said that church members didn't need to know my struggles with life and faith. They required my certainty. They wanted to see that I was an excellent example of what a Christian leader was all about.
Thankfully, I ignored that advice and have continued to do so ever since.
But even though I choose to be vulnerable about some things, I have also discovered that there are levels of vulnerability that I can't seem to tap into, and I'm not alone in this.
Being vulnerable is the most challenging thing we can do in our relationships.
Even those among us who are quite willing to show the cracks in our armor to the world often are unwilling to reveal the scars beneath it to others.
The problem is, when we keep our scars hidden, we resist being vulnerable about the things we are ashamed of, the wounds we've suffered, doubts we've had, or any number of things that we don't want to see the light of day, and then we cannot have genuine, honest relationships.
There is risk in swimming out into the deep end of the pool regarding our relationships. It feels safer to stay in the shallow end, where we can feel the bottom under our feet.
And most of us don't want to take the risk because we fear that without any firm footing, we might flounder and maybe even drown.
I recently read an incredible quote from author and speaker Bob Goff:
The shallow end isn't always as safe as it looks. We can skate through life without having any vulnerable conversations, and our flaws and fears will remain unexposed. If we're never willing to get real, we'll never really be known, and if we're never known, it's hard to feel truly loved for who we actually are. Try anything you want, but being vulnerable is the only pathway to true connection.
The part of that quote that really resonates with me is where Bob says:
If we're never willing to get real, we'll never really be known, and if we're never known, it's hard to feel truly loved for who we actually are.
It resonates with me because, on the one hand, there is the fear that we all feel about getting honest with others, of letting them know who we are, what we're really feeling, and what scars we bear.
But it also resonates with me because each of us has a deep longing to be known-- -to know that there is someone out there who knows us, our story, who has seen those scars and hasn't turned away.
If we are to be the kind of people God longs for us to be, we must be vulnerable enough to let our armor fall and share our scars.
The moment when the resurrected Jesus reached out to Thomas to show him the scars on his hands, feet, and side is just the kind of example we need. The scars reminded his followers that what he endured was awful but showed them that they weren't the whole story.
May we find the courage to do the same. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.