A YouthWorks schedule does not allow much time to process events. The constant movement from event to event consumes the majority of thought life, and what little time is left is spent unashamedly resting. When the summer finally draws to a close, one’s mind feels almost overwhelmed by the seemingly endless stream of lessons and morals learned over the course of the summer.
When I came home from YouthWorks this summer I could not fathom where to begin processing. There is still so much to be thought through with no end in sight as I still pause and consider lessons learned from my first YouthWorks summer in 2012. But I did learn one lesson that stands clear in my mind–the value of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is something that I struggle with because while one of my greatest desires in life is to be known, it is also one of my greatest fears. I have trouble trusting that if people knew the “real me,” they wouldn’t dislike me or abandon me. But God has been working on me over the past year to help me learn the value of vulnerability.
In April, I posted this facebook status:
Our suburban society values security. In other words, to be vulnerable or to expose yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually can be construed as weakness. But the beauty of the gospel is that we don’t have to have everything together. Once we learn that we are freed to love one another, and (!) to be loved.
To be loved is to be known and accepted. If we want to be loved we have to make ourselves vulnerable, or else people will only love the impression or image we make for ourselves.
I keep thanking God for the foresight to put that on my heart before my YouthWorks adventure began, because it would be a lesson that I would grasp more clearly as the summer went along. I struggled emotionally in the beginning of the summer because while I loved my teammates, I worried that if I made myself vulnerable to them they would turn away from me. I spent several weeks concerned with how close I should let them become, what details I should speak about my life, and how clearly I could explain what makes me who I am.
What made the situation worse was that at the beginning of the summer we each shared our life stories to one another. I was the first to share my story; I told them some of the big details in my life and events that made me who I am, but I did not make myself very vulnerable or talk about my struggles and things that I am still working through, nor did I have any intention to. Over the course of the next week though, each of my teammates would share their own life stories, making themselves very vulnerable, and explaining all of the brokenness in their lives.
So as we moved forward in the summer I felt this awkward tension and responsibility in myself; I felt as though I owed it to my team to be vulnerable with them. The tension grew so much inside me that after just several weeks of programming I felt bankrupt emotionally. I felt tired and alone; it was difficult.
All the while the summer’s theme, “Desirable,” was working on me. Week by week we would talk about how God see us as desirable and valuable, how He pursues us in spite of our brokenness, how He restores relationships to Him, and how He empowers us. How could I reconcile telling people everyday that God sees you as desirable in spite of your brokenness and not believe that myself?
So one monday evening, after listening about our Monday theme of “Broken,” with a mixture of fear and relief, I semi-incoherently rambled to my team that I was a broken mess and that I struggled with pornography and bitterness and self-worth. The beauty of the moment was that they didn’t turn their backs on me, nor did they abandon me. They loved me and not just the impression I put forth of myself. If anything, I would say our relationships grew more in the second half of the summer than they did in the first.
Only after I let people into my life did they understand who I was and how I thought. Only then could they help me process life and seek Jesus. And only then did I feel love because I made myself willing to accept love. I could not accept love before because I didn’t let people love me, only my image.
So while I am still processing the summer and the lessons that I learned, I do come away knowing that Jesus, who not only knows my brokenness but paid the price for my brokenness, sees me as desirable and invites the Church to see one another with value. Vulnerability is important if we want to give people the opportunity to see us as Jesus does, as valuable in spite of ourselves and our brokenness and loved for who we are.