Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vulnerability and Spirituality -

Freakin' crazy around here with the beginning of Spring 2015 semester at UVU (why is it called spring semester?), 2 groups and Sunday sermon at Cirque, and volunteering plus working at UVRMC as a chaplain. Oh, and yes, having the library and living room repainted, which means removing and moving. Oh happy day when this week is finished.

On the other hand, sermon for Sunday was on Vulnerability and Spirituality. While similar to the week's conversation about vulnerability and intimacy, this takes the topic a little deeper - intimacy with one's Higher Power.

Once when I was feeling particularly stressed and overwhelmed, my sister said to me, “Just fall back and let the universe catch you.”

When she said that, a feeling of peace washed over me. How lovely it would be to simply let go and feel completely safe, knowing that everything would be OK. That I was OK. The thought gave me a few moments of respite from my worries. I was free from the pain and pretense of trying to control everything.

Imagine if you heard those words from someone you love — “Just fall back and let me catch you. Just fall back and tell me everything. Just fall back and be yourself, flaws and all. I will still love you. I will be there for you.”

Imagine the peace of not holding it all in, of being completely authentic and open, sharing your most intimate dreams and fears, perfectly secure in the knowledge you won’t be ridiculed or rejected. Instead you’ll be embraced.

Imagine being completely vulnerable and exposed, and rather than it pushing someone away, it brings you closer together.

Unfortunately, most of us have been trained from a very early age not to be vulnerable. We’ve learned the painful lesson of opening our hearts, telling our truths, and showing our frailties, only to have our hearts broken and our weaknesses disparaged. We’ve learned to hold back, to pretend to be someone else, to protect our hearts.

We’ve learned that the best defense against pain is a good offense. So we build brick walls. We hold ourselves at arm’s length. We offer the smiling, jolly facade lest others think we aren’t pulled together and perfect.

Of course it’s exhausting and stressful maintaining this pretense. It takes a lot of energy to be something you’re not. It does protect you from emotional pain in the short term. But in the long run it wreaks havoc on your close relationships. Without being vulnerable, spirituality will wither and die, like a flower that never develops deep roots.

There can be no intimacy – emotional, physical, or spiritual, without vulnerability. One of the reasons there is such a spiritual deficit today is because we don’t know how to be vulnerable – open to the unknown, the undocumented, the unseen – we can’t be open with our hearts, only with our minds. Vulnerability is about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need, and asking for what we need. Yet – we are often afraid to ask, let alone feel like we deserve, answers from our Higher Power. For some reason we cannot be vulnerable with that Higher Power. Yet vulnerability is the glue that keeps us humble and connected to our Higher Power.

Brene Brown, Embracing Vulnerability 

Vulnerability directly affects our levels of spirituality. As we work the steps, we are really asked to create a relationship with our Higher Power, and this isn’t on a “Hey, how you doin’” and walk on by, but a first-name basis. Vulnerability precedes spiritual growth.

When you are vulnerable enough to open yourself up to share you – what are you looking for?
Brene Brown said this is a person who loves you not despite your vulnerability, but because of it. She calls this a “move-the-body friend,” someone who is going to show up and wade through the deep with them.

And this can be your Higher Power. He/she/it is endless, timeless, never ceasing, always available. Sometimes we steam-roll over our Higher Power, to get to those who we are trying to please or fool ourselves, to them. So why not give your Higher Power a try? “You share with people who have earned the right to hear your story.” (Brown) “Are you casting your pearls before swine,” rather than choosing your Higher Power as the one to share your story with?

Show up and be seen. Ask for what you need. Talk about how you’re feeling. Have the heart-to-heart conversation. When we ask for assistance, help, out of our vulnerability, we are humbled, and then, then, then we are open to answers. We then have the confidence to be ourselves, and in turn, open to receiving the assistance.

Sometimes the answer is this, “I can’t fix it, but I can walk through the storm with you.”

1.      Vulnerability reveals reality
a.       You can be yourself the good, bad, and ugly. There is beauty in being known so completely.
2.      Vulnerability fosters trust
a.       The more you let go, the more you can receive. If your hands are full of control, there is no room for trust, promptings. When you are secure in your relationship, you have peace, and in having peace you have security, and in the secure place you are capable of letting go.
b.      Do I really hear God’s voice, or is it my own? Don’t be afraid if you’re hearing Gods voice or if it is your own! You have to trust that when you have told God about your thoughts, and the way is open, go! Don’t stand there and struggle with the doors that is closed. Don’t give more attention to those that stands in the way. Walk through the crowd or take another way!
c.       “Why Trust Is Worth It”

3.      Vulnerability invites growth
a.       The more you give, the more you receive, and the more you grow. When you are in a safe place to honestly reflect on your true self and on your true needs, you can assess any changes that you need to make, without taking a blow to your self-esteem. You can be honest with yourself, which in turn enables you to live authentically, opening doors to your potential. (Prompting in Park City)
4.      Vulnerability builds confidence
a.       As you practice expressing your feelings, your concerns, and admitting your faults and weaknesses, you become stronger. You can stand true to your truth.
5.      Vulnerability heals wounds
a.       Yes! Vulnerability doesn’t make wounds, open wounds, but heals wounds. Healing begins with acknowledgment, then acceptance, then awareness. When you acknowledge your pain or fear, rather than running from it or hiding from it, you allow the light of truth into your healing process.
b.      We need to be able to accept constructive criticism from those with whom we’re vulnerable. Are you ready?
6.      Vulnerability creates bonds
a.       Do you have areas that you fear rejection or retaliation if you share with another? Here you have a quiet partner, someone who has already told you that you won’t be rejected, and in that sharing, in that connecting, intimacy is forged.
b.      Sharing with one another is what is taught in the Bible.
c.       James 5:16, we read, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” 
7.      Vulnerability deepens love
a.       Being vulnerable means being able to express your deepest feelings. You can become completely open, emotionally, physically, mentally, and know that your sharing creates openness between you and your Higher Power.
b.      “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis
8.      Vulnerability makes us more attractive
a.       Nothing is more attractive than authenticity. By being fully yourself, and confidently expressing your good and bad qualities, you begin to feel safe and confident.
b.      “I Trust You”

9.      Vulnerability teaches us to be comfortable with uncertainty
a.       We learn how to have faith. We learn that we aren’t in control, and that’s OK. Uncertainty can be our middle name, because we know our Higher Power has our back.
10.  Vulnerability teaches us how to be humble
a.       All games are tossed to the side, all our facades are broken down, and we are us, in our nakedness, in our authentic self. And we are not ashamed.
b.      There’s no way to have a real relationship without becoming vulnerable to hurt. Whom better to begin this process than with your Higher Power?
11.  Vulnerability teaches us that life is precious
a.       Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable, like a diamond, but because it is vulnerable, like a little bird. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability. The newborn child and the dying elder both remind us of the preciousness of our lives.
b.      “Hugs” (I trust you, do you trust me) 

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something. So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman (born 1960);
Author, Producer, Storyteller (Coraline)
Song: “Trust” Kristine Mueller 

Brene Brown reminds, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

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