May 2014

Dear Ones,

Do you like feeling vulnerable? We have all had times in our lives when feeling vulnerable wasn't our choice. Parts of ourselves that we keep hidden are exposed without our permission. But what if we chose to be vulnerable? If we reveal our true selves, our authentic selves, we are at risk of being judged, the topic of conversation, misunderstood, and -- worst of all -- rejected. What if we were so comfortable with who we are that vulnerability wouldn't be such a risk?

I have chosen vulnerability.

Well, the truth is, I need to be vulnerable. There is no other choice for me. When I entered seminary I decided on vulnerability. It was horrifying because I was among the academic elite and mostly people of privilege. You see prior to that I had spent years guarding my true self -- the real story. Almost no one knew that I was raised in poverty, had had a difficult childhood filled with abuse, homelessness, and dysfunction. I was becoming an expert of "class passing." That is, I am able to easily assimilate into socioeconomic classes above my own. It helped that I was well traveled, fought for an education, and have resources beyond what I ever expected. I wasted years denying my true self and lived in envy and shame.

Then I was called to ministry. Everything changed. I knew in my heart that I could not be the minister I wanted -- I needed -- to be if I was unable to be authentic and learn to be vulnerable by laying all of my cards on the table. The relief that came with that decision was incredible. I was free. I no longer had to guard myself or my story. I was truly free.

I'm describing that metamorphosis like it was easy and overnight. We know that true metamorphosis is a much more involved process. It is sometimes painful, risky, and anxiety provoking. It is worth it.

I experienced vulnerability recently. I was surprised by my reaction. Personal information that I would have never shared was indeed shared without my having any choice in the matter. One would think that with all the work I've done to choose vulnerability that I would have easily moved to acceptance. My default human nature kicked in and I felt shame and anxiety. I was transparent which doesn't always feel good. I didn't live in this position. I quickly made some adjustments and remembered that I'm not perfection. I'm vulnerable. I will not name or label myself according to what others may think or create. Yes, I am a man who experienced a grim beginning and still wrestle with grim realities today. I'm also a poet, a wise and loving minister, a really good cook, a generous soul, a curious gardener, and I'm free.

I choose vulnerability because I must live my call authentically -- blemishes and all. Transparency is sometimes difficult but I see no other way to be. Choosing to be vulnerable, being transparent, or an open book is sometimes challenging but it is worth the risk. Vulnerability isn't a liability. It's certainly easier when self compassion is practiced. It's a lighter way of being knowing that you know who you are, you love who you are, and you are willing to let others truly know who you are and where your soft and rough edges are.

Vulnerability reminds me that I'm not perfect. I accept that. Imperfection doesn't define me and it's not who I truly am. Vulnerability needs to be tried on again and again until eventually it fits comfortably. Within vulnerability we are free.

In faith, Rev. CJ


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