For example, I have learnt that you should change the oil in your car a lot more than I do or you run the risk of needing a new engine. In a similar fashion, I have learnt that careering into boot camp with a can-do attitude and a foolish optimism will result in an inability to climb stairs, drive a manual vehicle and rise out of a chair like an able bodied person for at least three days.
I can tell you now; like a trooper, I have worn the wounds of my superficial discoveries well, parading about the place, triumphant in my capability in adaptability to deal with whatever life throws at me. Well, that was the case until life threw rotten tomatoes and a little bit got in my eye. Whilst temporarily blinded and busy sulking, I realised my facade lurking further below the surface. And with grace in my heart I have come to know that it is always easier to ignore the night for the light that ekes.
That is until the light is completely snuffed out by the menacing darkness and you bump into your Grandma's ugly side table that you didn't even want to keep so many times that the skin on your knee has calloused over and you are forced to stop and get honest with yourself and others. Then it is hard and it requires of you courage.
Calloused knees and three legged cats
Recently, calloused knee in tow, my light was snuffed out. I was plagued with a despair I couldn't shake, a lingering sense of a fiasco on the fringes that my life and the existence of me within it, was about to weather some pretty fierce storms. It was the kind of time when it is appealing to wear mismatched earrings, stop washing your hair and cry at the injustice of noticing a cat with only three legs.
Some would say irrational, I would say, compassion gone insane. But this is where I found myself. Having watched the disintegration of my parent's marriage and wearing with shame my inability to change anything, I was hopelessly clawing at the disappointments of my yesterdays trying to get a leg up in my today.
I knew nothing of who I was, had no direction home and was perplexed as to why I was drowning when I had been told that Jesus was my life raft. Did I not know Jesus then? Or was I just really bad at playing the game? Or more sinister still, was I not worth saving? Whatever the reason for my downfall, I decide that to need others was a rookie mistake and that conversely to be self sufficient, self referential and autonomous was the ticket to success in life.
I set out, resolved to a life of safety through ambiguity and was victorious in it until the very thing that was my sanctuary became my tormenter and I realised, the truth of the matter is, that we were made to live and breathe life in community and in sincerity with others.
After grappling with my grief over failing at functioning as a 'normal' person, I began to understand, that it was less to do with Jesus and more that my plastered on, quick fix band-aids had begun to come unstuck and much to my dismay, I had gone septic, except I hadn't realised it because I had become both doctor and patient. See that is the risk we run, when we try to circumvent our circumstances in order to keep up appearances.
The most costly and most valuable lesson for me thus far has been this, that there is great comfort in being authentically, genuinely and accurately known in whatever situation we find ourselves in and that as Brene Brown in one of her 'TED talks' so flawlessly said, "Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage".
Embracing our shadow self
One of the greatest human temptations, I believe, is to skip over the ugly and fast track the difficult, running full speed towards the promises of tomorrow. We discount our shadowed past and emphasize our less grey self. We move ages in moments in order to ascertain success and to appear competent in whatever we put our hand to. We fear failing and in turn that fear fail us. Proverbs 16 verse 25 says, "there's a way that looks harmless enough; look again-it leads straight to hell".
Now I am by no means suggesting that people with vulnerability issues are going to find themselves in hell, but more so that perhaps what is implied here is that in sending ourselves on self imposed exiles in order to avoid rejection, we create our own living hell. One of isolation, loneliness, hopelessness.
The truth is, failure is inevitable, and if we don't allow ourselves to experience it, we miss out on the richness of what it can teach us that success can't. It is in the way in which we respond to failure that we gain new insight into ourselves. It is in divulging our brokenness that we can be made whole. In allowing ourselves to be found empty handed and lacking, we discover that hope is our only currency.
I am not suggesting that in living more authentically you update your facebook status with an abundance of weepy statements about how your soul is in the depths of despair, but then again, if you need to, do it. What I am saying is this; I came alive again when I was real with the people around me, the people who knew me and accepted me in spite of my many faults. There are still days when I front with all the self sufficiency and disinterest of a purebred Siamese cat. But mostly, these days, I am okay with being seen, however unattractive and uncomfortable that can be.
It bewilders me that when seeking to discover our own self worth, we grip so fiercely to perspectives that are as limited and as dim as our own. We wait, skulking with our hidden agendas at the ready, to hear only what we believe to be truth and blatantly disregard the rest. But when we finally understand that we are accepted and loved deeply by an ever-present, non-intrusive God of grace, we can finally accept ourselves and in accepting ourselves we evade that deep, nagging sense of being damaged, faulty goods.
When we no longer fear rejection as a means to survive, we can dare to be sincere and unadulterated in our relationships with those around us. And maybe in doing so, not only are we kept buoyant but we also pave a way for others, out of their own darkness and into truth.
It's a hard knock life
Life can be a vain and slippery thing, and as Annie, our favourite ginger haired orphan so succinctly put it, "it's a hard-knock life for us". We all know the song, we're all signing it. But perhaps, it is time for us to sing a new tune. Both human nature in all of its brokenness and God's love are realities, so the question becomes, which do we value more?
I suggest that in our search for meaning and purpose, we love in spite of death, we try to gain in spite of all there is to lose, we allow vulnerability in spite of potentially being abandoned. As Brennan Manning, the king of authenticity says, "if we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others".
In our weaknesses, humanity is found.
Gemma Taylor lives in Auckland, New Zealand and is passionate about community, self awareness and good coffee. Having taught primary education for 3.5 years, she is now part of a collective who own and operate a cafe where she works, baking treats and making coffees. Gemma enjoys socialising, learning and writes for buoyancy
Gemma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-taylor.html