Vulnerability: Roadtrip Edition

Health is about balance–mental, physical, and spiritual, and so recently, several of my girlfriends headed to Asheville for a little girl time and some mental and spiritual sabbath.  You know the drill: lattes, dramatic 90s ballads, and laughing so hard that there is no sound because air can no longer be processed by your lungs.  Yes, that kind of sabbath.  I seriously thought for a nanosecond about taking my husband on this mountain road trip strictly to up my hipster status because, well, he looks like a lumberjack, but the fact that he drinks his coffee black excluded him immediately.

We planned to attend a conference with a VERY popular speaker (she published the book Love Warrior last Tuesday). We did a whirlwind, round-trip 4 hours there and back in a day, and I had to preach in the morning (I know, just call me superwoman or crazywoman-you choose). Don’t worry—there was a late night Sonic stop that involved fried pickles, which I do not regret, and I would do again. Although those little pockets of oil solidified that I would not taste anything for a month given the third degree burns I received from consuming them. Needless to say, I was back in the gym Monday, so we all good, gals.

The speaker/blogger we heard focused on the power of vulnerability in helping us connect with one another, and then the power that that connection has to transform peoples’ lives.  Good stuff, right.  I think so.

Because connection breeds love and love is what it’s all about. Of course, love is what it’s all about—love, love of one another, love of self, love of stranger, love of God.  I’m listening…

Love is an incredible thing and the riskiest, most painful journey we can ever embark upon. And, of course, Jesus calls us to live in love (Ephesians 5:2). Thanks, Jesus, you never take the easy way out. Jesus never phones it in and watches Netflix all day (My literal God, I wish you did sometimes.  It would ease my guilt so much).

I mean, can I just say marriage? Or parenting? Or friendship? Or is there anything harder than the reality or fear of losing someone you love? Nah-not even close. Love is the worst. Love is the best. Love is so insanely complicated. It takes us places that we’d never want to go, and then it takes us places we could never have even imagined. I preached a sermon on this conundrum of love last September when the church start I was helping to plant prayerfully decided to dissolve. Talk about painful—talk about investing two years of your lives into something that you believed so much to be so in line with God’s desires. It was grief inducing; it was faith shaking. And it’s not something that I’ve even had a lot of time or practice in articulating. All I do know is that those two years were some of the most joyously exciting, side-splitting laughter filled days of my life. And the folks that I connected and integrated my life with over those two years, well, they were in the car, traveling to hear the speaker this week too. So as you can tell—we couldn’t get rid of each other (I also force them to go to try out new bootcamps and workout routines with me—so they’re pretty much stuck).  We love each other, and we’ve held each other up over the last year as we’ve embarked on unexpected and new plans, as we’ve (well, mostly me) have cried over new and unexpected plans…new careers and new relationships; new struggles and new triumphs.

Plans that we never thought we’d dream of or follow through on have become our realities.  We lost something so profoundly sacred when we said goodbye, and we are still discovering the resurrection that lies on the other side of death. We are still constantly living in the haze of Holy Saturday and Easter morning—constantly fighting to see the open tomb but constantly reminded that it seems impossible and death looms too close for comfort. This may seem depressing—oh it most definitely is. Death is depressing; it’s disappointing; it’s anger inducing. And its power is magnified when it’s paired with a deep, abiding, overwhelming, gut wrenching love. I loved that little, weird, struggling church. I loved it so much. And saying goodbye was an unsatisfying and thankless task for everyone.

And then, well, life keeps going…dang it, life.

And we inevitably find new ways of loving the same people and the same institution in a new and different way. We find new ways of loving new people and new places. We discover new joy; we discover new ways of laughing—sometimes at completely different things. We realize the things that we need to leave behind, so we can continue on the journey. Life is so heavy, and it can weigh us down—but we put some of the things we carry down on the side of the road and say “bye, bye”—for me, it was a lot of disappointment, blame, and pride. As I’ve set it down—it’s been easier to keep going.  I can honestly say, I’ve lost a lot of that weight 😉

Are we changed? Yes. Are we stronger? Yes. You’ve been carrying that load—your guns are in serious shape. We are different—our people are different. It’s complicated and messy and our process of processing all of these weird feelings continues. But I think we call all of this resilience. Yes, that’s right, resilience. Thanks again, Brene.

But…one thing doesn’t change.

We discover that our capacity to love has been resurrected, and the brightness of Easter morning is more evident than we’d imagined. Love really is everything.

So here we sit or stand in this in between of tragedy and joy, of loss and hope—the utter messiness and beauty of love—and yet this is and continues to be our simple instruction—live in love. We sit in this space practically all the time.

I diverged from our lesson in vulnerability and from our reflection on what the speaker had to share…for many reasons. The speaker was hilarious, and I immensely enjoyed hearing her reflect upon her own journey of vulnerability and rediscovering love and hope again and again. It’s inspiring, but as she would probably agree—I am not her and she is not me, and the similarities in our stories are met with so many nuances and exceptions. Mostly we share a deep love of television, which interferes with our productivity, and a deep love of story telling.

The journey of this past year—was laced with so much more than losing a faith community. And in some ways—it’s still hard to name and work through those things, but I’m trying. I want to be vulnerable because I want to love deeper. I’m also scared—scared that the more I name those struggles and the more I share—the more real the pain and new realities become.

Here’s a start to sharing our hearts. I love Brene Brown’s suggestion that we earn the right to hear one another’s stories…it’s a beautiful thought. Our connection gives us permission to connect even more deeply, and that means permission to love even more deeply, which is again what it’s all about, right?

So gals, that’s what I got today…live in love.   It’ll be the most disappointing, heartbreaking, wonderful, beautiful, and authentic thing you’ll ever be able to do.  Here’s some fun vulnerability, I’m not crazy about this picture, but it was my only tangible souvenir from our road trip 😉

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