Finding wholeness in your story

Yesterday something interesting happened to me. I had started gathering together my thoughts for this post and all of a sudden I had writer’s block. So I decided to put the post aside and pick it up again after church and guess what we talked about in church? The power of sharing your story! I know without a shadow of doubt God is telling me something important and so here goes.

I have spent the last three weeks thinking about wholeness and how to find it after going through harsh life experiences (whether it was by your own doing or not!). I had been reflecting particularly about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and how she was transformed from the woman who went to fetch water at midday so no one would see her, to one who run into the city screaming and drawing attention to herself. I concluded that sometime during her encounter with Jesus and when she left her pot and run she found wholeness.

For those of you who do not know the story, it is found in John 4:1-42. Jesus tells this woman about the things in her life that had brought her shame and instead of pushing those things into the deepest, farthest corner of her heart and mind, she brings it all into the light and allows God to replace her brokenness with wholeness. She had a sordid and maybe scandalous history with men and so she goes to the well when no one can see her or gossip about her and yet after her encounter with Jesus we see her running into the city screaming “come and see a man”. The very thing that had impugned her, we see her declaring with all boldness, “I have met a man”

There is something liberating about owning your story and being prepared to speak to the transformation that happens after we encounter Jesus. Personally, I believe that is how we manifest and live the wholeness that God perfects on our inside on the outside. Something powerful happens when we own and tell our story: the shame and condemnation that secretly creeps up on us when we dare look in that deep dark place in our minds where we hide our past sins and failures lose their power. Those areas get illuminated by God’s light as we bring them to light through our stories.

But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

When we encounter Jesus in our situations, and allow Him to, He makes us whole. But feeling whole is a different story! Here is where embracing the concept of growth becomes important. To feel whole, we need to give ourselves permission to grow from our experiences. The Samaritan woman would have never had the confidence to speak about any man (let alone a Jew) in public if she did not embrace this concept of growth. There is a quote that I have come to adore that spells this out clearly:

Just because you did something wrong in the past does not mean you cannot advocate against it now. It does not make you a hypocrite, you grew. Don’t let yourself or others use your past to invalidate your current mindset. Growth is a concept. Embrace it.

UNKNOWN and I have modified.

Growth means being able to appreciate how far you have come and that means being honest with yourself about where you’ve been. Many Christians “conveniently forget” or to be blunt pretend they have never done anything wrong even to themselves all in the name of “old things have passed away”. And while I am not advocating for constantly dredging up the past, I believe it is important to acknowledge it and be willing to confront every aspect of you, the good, bad and ugly so none of it has a lasting hold on you.

For some, telling our stories means being consistent in telling people about God’s goodness in our lives. And for others it means James 5:16. But for most of us, it means acknowledging that thing that we are so ashamed of in our lives and then refocusing on what matters most. The samaritan woman did this: she acknowledged that she was living a scandalous life but did not stop there… she took the conversation further to explore how this dark thing in her life had affected other areas of her life… primarily her ability to worship God freely; and that is how she became whole.

Wholeness is within our grasp and one way it can be found is in having the boldness to share your story of how God transformed you and how he has brought you into His light.

Yours Truly

The big “V”

Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God.  From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:

We are hardwired  as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].

Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.

Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.

Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging,  and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Romans 7:23-24
  • 2 Corinthians 13:4
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives.  I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV

The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Yours Truly.

P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here