Updated: Sep 14, 2020
And here we go again. I am scared to write this blog. I feel lost. Stupid. And like I can't believe I am going through this again. But I am going to model and embrace vulnerability and write anyway.
I am devastated, heartbroken and shattered after another failed attempt at love. I don't regret it, though. I refuse to carry that. But this time - it's so different from the brokenness I felt any time before. There was so much more right and good and beautiful than there was bad. In fact, there was no bad, only an opportunity to learn to handle conflict, to learn to communicate, and to grow closer to each other and ultimately God.
This time, we picked out a ring.
This time, we set a date.
This time he asked my children for permission to propose.
This time, I was making plans to move my life, quit a career I love, leave my daughters here.
This time, I wanted to stay when things got difficult and I wanted to do the hard work of learning to trust each other through life's messiness.
This time, for the first time, I saw forever.
He didn't. As soon as the first big conflict arrived, he departed.
I am so not perfect - I have fears, insecurities, and I have selfish emotional pitfalls.
He was not perfect - he was emotionally unavailable, prideful, and lacked humility and empathy.
We could hide behind those. After all, some excuses are more impressive than others. However, none of them do any good and typically, they prolong stagnation.
Emotional stagnation occurs when you refuse to allow relationships - with yourself or others - to move you to a higher version of yourself. I get it. It's painful to admit we need to change aspects of ourselves that are not serving our own best interest or are not allowing us to create deep, committed, and connected relationships. But to do nothing - or to leave when it gets a bit difficult accomplishes nothing, and eventually, you find yourself emotionally immature and devoid of connecting deeply. God's ultimate goal for our life on earth is not comfort, but character development. Becoming stagnant seems like a better option. It's a safe bet and keeps us in our cozy emotional comfort zone.
Refusing to leave your emotional comfort zone keeps you bouncing from superficial relationship to superficial relationship in order to protect yourself from the hard work of being completely vulnerable with someone. It's so much easier to leave and find someone new who won't ask you to realize you may have some ugly things to admit about yourself and work on. In new relationships, you are viewed through the filter of potential, rather than the light of reality. Emotionally unavailable people refuse to go deeper into reality because they are incapable of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is being susceptible to physical or emotional harm. Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure." It's that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control. That could cause us to lose peace.
The problem is not the storms you face in relationships.
The problem is perspective. __________________________________________________________________________________
"They all got into a boat and began to cross over to the other side of the lake. And Jesus, exhausted, fell asleep. Suddenly a violent storm developed, with waves so high the boat was about to be swamped. Yet Jesus continued to sleep soundly. The disciples woke him up, saying, “Save us, Lord! We’re going to die!”
But Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the storm and said, “Be still!” And instantly it became perfectly calm. Matthew 8:23-27 TPT
Jesus asked the apostles to sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee knowing a storm was coming. Susceptible to emotional and physical harm, they obeyed Jesus. The apostles had peace in their comfort zone of smooth sailing, but the moment the waves started crashing and they were heading into the zone of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty - they lost faith in the one they had seen perform many miracles.
Peace can happen in your comfort zone, but miracles won't.
Peace can happen when everything’s great and convenient, but a miracle won't.
You don’t need a miracle when everything is easy. You only need a miracle when you’re on the edge, when you’re scared to death, when you’re insecure, and when the storm with the one that will change you for the better is raging. You need a miracle when you lose faith.
Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no storm, noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm and assured in your heart that everything will work itself out. The peace of God that transcends all understanding supersedes earthly circumstances. Jesus slept peacefully through a raging storm because he knew God was with Him. The apostles saw the miracle of the storm calming in the zone of discomfort.
The comfort zone is “a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance.”
What stands out to me the most about that definition is the last part: “using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance.” How many successful people do you know who deliver a steady level of performance?
The goal in life is to continually challenge yourself and continually improve yourself. And in order to do that, you have to move out of your emotional comfort zone. But once you do, your life will start to change in ways you could never have imagined.
Here's how to move out:
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. So while going to that new yoga class may feel uncomfortable, you're also opening yourself up to the opportunity to make new friends and learn a new, healthy habit. But if you run away the second those shaky feelings arise, you're just reinforcing the voice in your head that says "I'm not good enough."
We try to sidestep the shaky feeling of vulnerability. We emotionally "armor up" each morning when we face the day to avoid feeling shame, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. The particular armor changes from person to person, but it usually revolves around one of three methods: striving for perfection, numbing out, or disrupting joyful moments by "dress rehearsing tragedy" and imagining all the ways that things could go wrong.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you practice vulnerability in your own life:
Recognize that facing vulnerability takes enormous courage. Take small steps (like asking someone what they are thinking) and be proud of your bravery when you do.
Let go of the constant worry about what other people think of you. Most people are focused on their own internal struggles, not you.
Feeling overwhelmed? Focus your attention gently on your breath and the sensations in your body for a few moments before returning your attention back to the task at hand - and remember, as Jesus did, God is with you.
Don't worry about being perfect - in fact, don't even consider it. No one is perfect, and the more you hold yourself to an impossible ideal, the more easily you will give up.
Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences and relationships. It can be scary and uncomfortable. But what scares us is sometimes actually good for us, and if we can stomach sitting with it, the vulnerability has the potential to transform itself into joy. My heart is in severe discomfort but there are miracles in discomfort. And I have a front-row seat to watch Jesus calm the storm inside me.
Sometimes a big life change is scary. I know, I was about to make one - gladly, joyfully, willingly, and yes, scarily.
But a life without personal change is terrifying.
But what is even more terrifying than not changing? Regret. Which, I still refuse to carry.