In the beginning of grief, it seems as if you’re caught in the midst of a big grey storm cloud, praying for the rain to hold off. In your limited control you realize the rain has indeed started to fall. Still you secretly hope someone will rush over and usher you under their shelter, offering you a moment of respite, as you await the rain that falls.
And so it goes in grief. In the beginning you are secretly begging for someone to listen. You hope someone will listen to the torture and torment you and your loved one(s) have endured. You cry out, “Please, just listen to me. Please hear my cries. Please tell me I have been heard; allow me to believe someone – somewhere understands the depth of my pain.” Only, those cries, they’re not real cries in the true sense of the word, they’re whispers, much like those hopes. Really, the whispers are simply a sign you don’t know how to ask for help. You are afraid that if you speak up someone might misinterpret your pain. You’re afraid someone might ask you what can be done to help and you’re afraid of being forced to deliver the response, “I don’t know.” Really, you don’t want to have to explain that they don’t need to do anything at all. They simply need to be there to offer shelter when needed, a little respite from the storm.
Now that I’ve made it through the storm, I wish you and I could cast aside our fears long enough to cozy up over coffee and delve into the deepest, darkest matters of the heart. Perhaps I might be brave enough to walk you through the most painstakingly horrifying season of my life, moment-by-moment, heartache-by-heartache. Maybe, just maybe we might sit there in silence, with tears in our eyes, fully present in the awareness that there may not be any “right” thing to say. Now, imagine we were okay with knowing we couldn’t fix each other’s pain. Maybe, just maybe, you might feel useful, like you were capable of offering me that much needed respite in the midst of my storm. And, maybe, just maybe we could walk through it together in anticipation of the rainbow to come.
If I could communicate to you one of the most valuable lessons I have learned through my loss and know, deep down, that it would be heard, I would tell you not to fear vulnerability. I would tell you that being vulnerable is one of the most courageous undertakings – ever. That it means listening intently – really listening, with your heart. It means loving others without fear, accepting them with open arms in spite of their imperfections, and being emotionally available when they need you the most. It means believing in the beauty of the person God created you to be, sharing your real feelings with others, and being able to say, “I can’t,” when you feel you have to say, “I can.” It means admitting defeat when you are wrong and asking for forgiveness.
Finally, I would tell you that being vulnerable is God’s ultimate promise of restoration brought to reality. It is through genuine vulnerability we will encounter the fullness of the life the Lord has ordained for us while meandering about this earth, in pursuit of our forever home.