Saturday, December 28, 2013

the risk of excruciating vulnerability

I discovered this talk a couple of years ago and I watch it pretty regularly. Each time I take away something different. Which I both love and hate.

 “There is only one variable that separated the people who have a sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it and that was that people who have a sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging… the one thing that keeps us out of connection is the fear that we are not worthy of connection.”

What then, are we to do, when someone we desire a connection with doesn’t reciprocate? How do we NOT withdraw again, how do we believe that we are worth connecting with?

“We must be willing to invest in relationships that may or may not work out…”

“…to let ourselves be seen”

These may be my two greatest fears. I am willing to be excruciatingly vulnerable if I knew the other person would not only be ok with it, but would still love me anyway. (And not leave.) Yet her research showed that the way to live is with vulnerability, which is to stop controlling and predicting.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love, Brown says.  So all the things I really want. But being vulnerable takes all of that out of you. At least for me, most of the time.

One of the greatest powers we are given as human beings is the power to reject others.  I know this because I have been rejected and I know the power it has over me. It’s incredible. We must walk carefully into this power with others, or we leave a wake of broken hearts behind us. I’ve been one of the broken hearts many times. I pray I have not been the one doing the breaking.

Brown also talks about how we cannot selectively numb emotions. She claims we cannot numb fear and rejection without numbing joy and love, too. I realized while watching this for the umpteenth time today how this is powerfully connected to expectations. If you decided not to expect anything (and I know people who try this) the claim is you will never be disappointed. But will you also end up never feeling joy or love, too? I’m thinking and wondering about this potential truth.

Because I want it not to be so. I want to come to a place in my life where I don’t feel disappointed  or rejected (note that I am I am not saying that I wish disappointment or rejection would never actually happen. I’m not that delusional.) But I really want to figure out how not to be devastated by it.

Usually when I work on a post the typing and words come fast and freely at the start. I may go back and do some serious editing, but the typing and emotions come running out so fast I can hardly keep up. This time I am typing with awareness and lots and lots of typos. There is a metaphor here, I’m sure of it. I am so unsure of what I am feeling right now (and yes, a particular person has caused these crazy emotions in me and it makes me want to cut them out of my life. I’m trying to decide if they are a blessing or a lesson right now.) But I am trying very hard to coach myself through it. When I need this, Brown’s TED talk helps.

Vulnerability is courage, Brown says, in another one of her TED talks. I’ve never seen it as a weakness, thankfully. But I do object to the way it makes me feel. Because vulnerability makes me feel known… and when that is rejected, it destroys me. Because I already have a very fragile belief that I am worthy in the first place.

This all boils down to risk. The risk we take when we allow someone to enter into our lives. The risk we take when we remove a wall, brick by brick, to allow someone else to see who you really are. And not just who you are, but also how you feel, and what you feel about them, too.

I’m fully aware that I am talking in circles. I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about all of this. Actually, no. I’m trying to figure a way out of all of these feelings. That’s clearly two different things. My heart desperately wants a way out of these painful emotions and my head is telling me that’s just not going to happen. Perhaps it should be the other way around, but I’ve never been one to do things normally.

I think this is why her second TED talk is about listening to shame. There is shame in rejection. There is shame in not feeling good enough for someone to want to be with you.  

As she says, part of shame is to walk through it and find our way around. I think that’s what I’m trying to do here. While I would prefer to go around the swamp in my soul where shame resides, I think it’s time to put on my boots and find my way around. Not looking forward to it. But my word for 2013 was “anything” and 2013 is still here. I'm now wondering what my word for 2014 will be.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

sentimentality and the death of Christmas idols

I’ve always been a particularly sentimental and nostalgic person, and it has increased significantly since moving away from my family, where this nostalgia is often born. Even as a teenager, I collected and kept things that represent memories and moments that are special to me. I have a keepsake box in my living room – it’s actually one of those old photo boxes you used to be able to purchase at craft stores, but since we no longer print pictures, I’m sure it’s an antiquated reference. However, I love to use them for keepsakes, and every so often I get it out and look through the odd little items from years and years ago and remember. The box contains everything from piles of letters from dear friends to a piece of a broken plate. Other random items: small plastic toy with a particularly funny memory, a sticker from another great moment in life... you get the idea.

 This kind of sentimentality is one of my favorite things about decorating my Christmas tree, as nearly every ornament is attached to a particular season in my life. I buy each one with intention or have received many as gifts from special people in my life, that remind me of them. The night I set aside to decorate my tree is sacred to me, including my favorite Christmas music and a great cup of hot cocoa from Trader Joes. 2013 is the first year of my life I do not get to spend with my family. They planned to come to Arizona early this year for their winter visit, but my dad’s doctors had other plans. While they determine the cause and potentially a course of treatment his irregular heart beat (which he was born with, so my dad is sure they will find nothing out of the ordinary) mom and dad are grounded in the cold Nebraska winter. They didn’t even put up a Christmas tree or decorate the house for the season. I think mom is just as disappointed as I am. I, however, have a full house decorated in anticipation of them coming, including brand new stockings for each of us hanging from one of my bookcases. I purchased a new Christmas tree, planned meals, made LOTS of Christmas cookies, some chex mix… the list goes on and on.

 I was preparing.

 I was already wondering how I would deal with an Arizona Christmas, as I’ve never had one before. But I’m not completely inadaptable to change, so this year I went back for Nebraska for Thanksgiving in exchange for them coming early. But now they are not coming at all. We will facetime each other this evening so we can at least “pretend” to be together this Christmas. Last year I remember being in the wrapping paper section at Target, and weirdly, finding an idol. This Christmas, with death, tragedy, people plowing into the relatives of my small group friends, causing them to be in the ICU, no mom and dad to spend Christmas with… well. It suddenly felt pretty much not like Christmas.

 And then I remember this:


 And I uncovered another idol.

What is Christmas, anyway? This is the hard question I've been asking myself these past several days. In the last 5 years, since I moved away from my family, Christmas has been about seeing them. It’s the only time I get to see most of them in the year. I'm close with my family and they mean a lot to me. I know this is rare for many, and that is perhaps why I cherish it so much. But the Christmas season became preparing to see them... making plans to see them... I got excited to see them. In other words, in my heart, Christmas hasn’t really been about Jesus. Ooof. It's very hard for me to admit that, because I don't believe I've forgotten the amazing gift of Jesus Christ. But I have not placed Jesus in the forefront of my own heart.

Two weeks ago I gave a message from Matthew 3, about how preparing for the Messiah looks like repentance and producing fruit. Well, as lonely as I will be this Christmas, I have much to repent of in my heart. Not my favorite way to spend Christmas, but certainly a way that will help me grow. Uncovering idols tend to do that. I hate it, but there it is.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

disappointment, love and being an INFJ

It’s been a while since I've talked about disappointment in a post. And I’m experiencing it in spades right now, so that usually means I needs to write about it. So I can figure out how I feel. Yes, this is how an INFJ works.

I have a friend in my life that regularly disappoints me. Not because of unrealistic expectations, but because he says he is going to do something and he doesn't do it.

It ranges from telling me, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” to “We are going to watch that movie together. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it.” To then things like, “I’ll come by and see you.” And other kinds of statements. Nothing huge. But little things add up to a lot.

Oh, there is that evil math again.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. -1 Corinthians 5:13 (NIV)

NERD ALERT: I prefer the ESV most of the time, but with the Greek word, I think the NIV is a bit more faithful to the original meeting.  Logizomai means to reckon, count, compute. The ESV translates it as irritable. Keeps no record seems more faithful to me. But then again, I’m not a bible translator.

So I don’t want to keep a record of all the times he has said he was going to do something and didn't, (though, obviously I have) because we’re told that’s not how love behaves. But I also wonder about keeping my friend accountable, wanting to be his sister in Christ. I know he wants to be a better man, but I am also asking myself, “What is my responsibility here? What is the right thing to do?”

I am grieving today. And in the last 48 hours I've had to tell a number of congregation members about the death of an entire family that is a significant part of our church. There were dearly cherished and loved by many. So I grieve. But I've had to grieve on my own. I've had to be pastoral to those with which I’ve broken the news, and in the process have not been able to break down with someone with which I feel safe.

I recognize this is part of being in ministry. But that’s also why I cherish the small number of friends I do have, because I can be safe with them. These are the spaces I need to grieve in – in places of love and safety and comfort. Because my friend did not follow through with a promise, I haven’t been able to grieve with someone safe today. I am leading worship tomorrow, singing the matriarch of the family’s favorite song. I doubt I will get through it, and I was hoping that safe place would help me prepare. But my friend disappointed me today.

This is a wrong I’m keeping track of, and it doesn't feel like love. It feels like a sacrifice I don’t want to make. Sometimes I would like others to sacrifice for me. And when I ask for it, I try not to ask for too much. But I’m often let down.

“Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand.” (From the above link, profile of an INFJ.)  

This makes it really hard for me to find friends, which is why I am so careful with the ones I do have. This kind of turmoil is my least favorite kind, because I don’t know what to do. And I long to know what to do.