Vulnerability is a funny thing. Relationships of any kind are based upon a sort of trade system. I’ll let you in only as much as you do. You can only have as much of my heart as you are willing to give of mine, etc. The odd thing about these little trades is that they (at least in my experience) are never equal or “fair”. One person is always more out there in the open. One person always has stronger feelings. I think that this is just a natural part of life. We all know that not everything can be even and uniform, especially when it comes to our hearts. I think that this is what leads those who are more apt to put themselves out there for others into painful or uneasy situations.
That being said, as one of those people who opens up too much, too fast, I have to constantly ask myself a set of questions: Does this person want me to open up this much? Is it worth the risk for me to be vulnerable with them? How much does this person really need to know/see of my life? Is this person being open and honest with me?
What’s frustrating about this is that I wish I didn’t have to ask those questions all the time. I wish that I could be as raw and real with people as I want without having to worry about being too much to handle or getting hurt. It would be nice to not have to worry about how the people that I care about perceive my actions in my relationships with them. However, I don’t function that way. I’m almost incapable of filtering my emotions, positive or negative. I find myself being a little too much of everything for most people, and sometimes not enough of anything for others.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with what to do about these problems concerning vulnerability and the intensity in which I operate in relationships. I’ve been overly worried about the way my loved ones will perceive my actions and words. I haven’t felt comfortable in most of my friendships or with the way I act around the girls I’ve been interested in. It’s been rough. But in the last month or so, I’ve started to realize that maybe it’s not others’ perceptions that I’m really worried about, but my own issues with how I perceive myself. I’ve noticed that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t with how others see me, but with how I see me. I’m starting to see the ways in which I’ve been selling myself short. Maybe if I can start to love Mitch the way that Mitch loves others, things will settle down a little bit. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. All of my life, people have acted like the message there is that we have to love everyone around us. But what about loving ourselves? How often do we talk about that? And isn’t it just as important?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Love doesn’t have to bear fruit. God loves us in spite of our failures and our wrongdoings. He pursues us whether or not we love him back. Shouldn’t we be striving for the kind of love that isn’t contingent upon how those we love treat us? Think of the amount of people God has loved and given grace to. All people across all of time. How many of those people loved God back? Even the humans who do love God back, can never love Him back in a way that even comes close to the measure of his love. Yet he still loves us. True love isn’t about kisses and hugs. It’s not about the relationship. If you love someone, does it matter what they do to you, how they treat you, if they love you back, or if your love even means anything to them? If it does, is it love? True love is about giving yourself away to someone selflessly. No matter what. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t come naturally. However if you want to be like Jesus, I would argue that you’d have to be able to display the kind of love that isn’t worried about what you get back. No one ever told me that being a Christian would mean putting all of your heart and soul into someone just to get shit on later. Where’s the spiritual discipline that helps us learn to be heartbroken?
Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? I imagine most people reading this would answer yes to that question. But what the hell does that mean? I have a personal relationship with my friends and my family, but how does one have a personal relationship with God? In my mind, having a personal relationship involves getting to know someone on an intimate level. You ask questions, you get answers. You talk about the things you have in common, what you like to do with your time etc. How does one talk to God? How do you get personal with Him?
I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time. How do I have a personal relationship with a seemingly non-personal being? I only get one answer from people of faith, “Pray.” But that doesn’t make sense to me. If I wanted to talk to a friend about something, I have to tell them the story of what happened or let them know what’s going on in my heart, but isn’t God omniscient? What purpose does me kneeling down and telling God what happened in my day serve? He already knows. He knows my heart. He knows my thoughts. To me, it seems like most Christians use this form of prayer as catharsis. We throw up all our drama, worry and guilt on God and ask him to fix it. While I see how that could be therapeutic for some people, I don’t feel like it’s necessary for me to tell God what’s going on in my life and heart. I trust that he already knows and that, because He loves me, He is already working in that situation to bring me through. My issue with prayer isn’t that I don’t want to talk to God. I do. That would be great. But I’ve never spoken with God. I’ve always spoken to Him. He never talks back. How am I supposed to have some kind of “personal relationship” with someone who doesn’t talk back? I can’t ask God for advice. I can’t ever be sure of exactly what he wants me to do. Am I just supposed to read the Bible, to “hear” from God? I’m sorry, but I can’t bring myself to believe that I’m supposed to put my life entirely into the hands of how I and other people before me have interpreted words writing thousands of years ago to and about people that I share very little in common with. So what if Jesus isn’t my best friend? Is that okay? I don’t know how to be friends with God. Maybe that doesn’t matter. We do have this beautiful picture of how God lived his life as a human. All I know is that I want to love like He loved. And let Him love me. I don’t think that requires me to pray before I eat or tell Jesus goodnight before I roll over and drift off to sleep. It’s hard for me to see God as someone who wants to be my friend. I think he wants more than that. Jesus didn’t live, die, and overcome death for me to be able to have a buddy that I can talk to at all times. He came so that the world come be redeemed from the brokenness of humanity. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to relate to God. I’m not sure what the best way for me to pray is, but I do know that I want to participate in putting the world back together. I want to be a part of the Kingdom. Whatever that means.
Simon, called Peter
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter
James, son of Zebedee
John the brother of James, son of Zebedee
James, son of Alphaeus
Simon, the zealot
Judas of James
These are the names of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Some are more familiar to us than others. Some are infamous. Nonetheless, they all have one thing in common. They were part of the twelve. If you go down the list you probably have different things come to mind for each one. What happens when you get to Thomas? What comes to mind when you read his name? For me, it is just one word. Doubt. Thomas doubted. He didn’t believe until he saw the scars. What’s odd to me is the way we have come to look at him. He is seen as someone who Jesus rebuked for not having faith. We don’t want to be like Thomas. But as I read the gospels, Jesus rebukes everyone. Peter is called Satan, James and John want to strike people down with lightning bolts. Yet these disciples are seen as great examples of what it looks like to follow Jesus. So the question that comes to my mind is, “What’s wrong with doubting?” Jesus chose each one of his disciples for a reason. They all had their own gifts and passions. On top of that, they were all uneducated, poor, teenage boys. They were by no means cream-of-the-crop type people. How does the fact that Thomas doubted make him any worse of a disciple? I would argue that it didn’t.
In my own journey, I have struggled deeply with what to believe and how to believe it. It’s hard for me to understand why my faith doesn’t always look like those around me or why I can’t seem to find prayer appealing. I’m not sure why I’ve never felt like Jesus was my best friend, but I do know that there is something about this message of the Kingdom of God that I find beautiful and true. Something inside of me wants to hold on to the hope of reconciliation. I want to believe in this paradoxical way of life. I want to participate in it. I’m starting to be okay with the fact that the way I relate to God isn’t exactly like everyone else. I don’t care if I don’t get much out of praying before I eat or singing hymns while sitting in a pew. I still believe in prevenient grace. I know that God has given me gifts and passions and I know that I’m going to do my best to use them in a way that honors him. Who cares if I have doubts or don’t believe some of the things I was taught in Sunday school? Does that make me any less of a disciple? I think not.
We are all on a journey with a story worth telling. Mine is a little different than most. In this blog, I’m going to be honest about where I am and where I’ve been. I’d like you to journey with me. Because in the end we all have a little bit of Doubting Thomas inside of us.