Pondering Vulnerability

Until a few years ago I would of never have allowed myself to be seen by others as vulnerable. Having grown up in a generation where I have been told I can do anything and be anything I want and truly believing that this was the case I had created some Lara Croft / wonder woman style persona. Under this persona I could outwork my different roles of youth worker, minister, wife, mother, friend, wanna be world changer. I had worked hard to sculpt, craft and manage that formidable persona, juggling all the different roles and expectations associated within them in order to suppress and overcome any sense of vulnerability.

One Friday night as I served behind the coffee bar at youth group I began to feel unwell. Stepping out of the kitchen into the main space I recall telling my co workers I felt unwell before promptly fainting. I’m not really aware of what happened next but a whole heap of medical tests later and I found myself sat with a Stroke Consultant at my local hospital. 31 years old with a full time role in youth ministry that although I adored I was in my first year of, two children at home and living 160 miles from my nearest friends or family members, whether I liked it or not I was indeed vulnerable.

I remember speaking to my mum on the phone, not wanting to inconvenience her or be a nuisance, I firmly told her I did not want her to come & visit me. Ofcourse that’s not what I really wanted, I wanted her to be sat right next to me, to tell me everything would be ok and for her to look after me. But I just couldn’t say that! Thankfully she took no notice and within the next hour was on her way, but despite me deep down wanting her to come I was still angry and frustrated at her when she called to say she was half an hour away. 

It made no sense and looking back I was very glad she did come but I wanted to be in control of how and when, I wanted to set the tone and pace and being out of control was not in my comfort zone.  For some of the young people I worked with the last time they saw me was on the youth group floor, not exactly the well planned exit strategy any youth worker would hope for!

Over the next few weeks my vulnerability increased and became tangibly more obvious not just to myself but also to those around me. I looked ill & I acted ill because I was ill. I remember someone asking me what had changed and my response was simply … everything. My independence was stolen in a moment and every aspect of my life needed to be redefined. My response to this change was erratic to say the least, sometimes I was defiant, other times I was defeatist but at all times the increased sense of vulnerability hung over me like a black cloud. It changed how people treated me and it changed how I saw myself.

2 yrs on and I’m still pretty rubbish at navigating this whole open vulnerability thing.  I am still trying to work with the NHS to get my medication package right, lots of the meds have quite disturbing side effects that are often worse than the root issue itself. And in addition the medical scrutiny my body has been under has revealed some other underlying health issues that now need addressing. I am very thankful for the NHS but regularly I’m splayed naked seemingly for strangers to poke and prod, I hate it, it makes me anxious so I try not to have to go even when I probably should. 

See the thing is I don’t want to be seen as weak, I don’t want to on the receiving end of pity so how do you let people in and create an honest space about how things really are when most of the time you are expected to be a strong leader. Someone people follow, people trust, people look to as a stable constant.  I remember an old line manager telling me to air my vulnerability with caution, to be careful what I asked publically for prayer for and to find my pastoral care outside of the church I served. Seems a little lacking in integrity to me though, so how do we find a balance where all parties are catered for?   

Jesus had his inner circle, the disciples whom he loved the most, those he spent time with in honest, broken states of prayer. But how do we create safe inner circles? How do we decide when and when not to advertise to the outside circle our needs? 

As I type this I am waiting for a Dr’s call, is it ok to tell people and ask for prayer? 
My kids are sitting their SATS & GCSE’s this week, as are many others is it ok to ask for prayers for them too? 

Do we tell the truth and let people know its quite a difficult time for us at the moment or do we do the stock answer of ‘We are all good’ and how do you decide who is in the inner circle and who remains on the outer? I have no answers, I’m simply pondering lots of questions …

I love the thoughts contained in Brene Browns Ted Talk go check it out.