In the mornings I watch my daughter, Esther carefully select the clothing that she will wear for the day. In her head, she sees a fashion diva when picking out these outfits and she has the attitude to match. However, regularly it is something crazy, such as a wild printed shirt under overall shorts with a sequined bow on them along with a skirt over the overall- shorts. Then to top it off, a big bow or sequined cat ears, and a “braid’ that resembles something very different than any braid I have ever seen. I love her sense of creativity but under no circumstances would her outfit match her level of confidence. Now, she is six and I love her but I am not sure she is the fashion icon she sees herself as. It is cute at six, however, I don’t believe that if I was to copy her style, that it would either be viewed as cute or fashionable. We may not do this with clothing, but I do think we try to do this in different ways as adults, especially within the church
Within our own Christianity, we say that God meets us right where we are, yet somehow we find ourselves portraying a picture of how we want people to see us, and rarely is it reflective of a God that takes us mess and all. We feel that in order to be a good representation of God, we have to be the finished product. When we adopt this thinking, we hide all our flaws and only show our best self even if that isn’t a true reflection of who we are. My daughter could care less when she picks out her outfits in the morning of what I think or anyone thinks, that is where she is at. As she gets older she will learn what does and doesn’t match. She will also become more self-aware. The one thing we all have in common is our humanity, the fact that we all fall short. Hopefully, we are growing, we love showing everyone the areas we have already grown in but it is so much more difficult to show our shortcomings or what we are currently working on. That takes vulnerability. I believe vulnerability is a strength if we will allow it to be. My vulnerability makes me more relatable and it also makes others feel safe. There is no safety in shallow relationships. My best relationships are with those who have seen my worst and yet still believe in me, supported me, and have never pretended that I should aspire to be as put together as they are.
We live in a world where people are masters of reading a room and figuring out who they need to be to gain the appeal of the room. We have a world where nobody knows who they actually are anymore because they are constantly fulfilling the needs of others rather than focusing on becoming a better me or more importantly who God intended me to be. There is a very powerful lesson in coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will love you and there are people who can’t handle a messier or more authentic you. Authenticity isn’t just your wonderful moments, it is also your fears, mistakes, and challenges. We are all flawed, we all need grace and compassion. When no safe space exists it is easy to find ourselves isolated and full of anxiety. I know this from my own experience.
There was an experience I had with a church leader several years ago, where I was being open and honest about the grief that I was experiencing. The grieving process had started 4 months prior to this conversation. Anyone who has ever gone through grief knows that it is a process that looks different for everyone and does not have a specific time frame. This church leader had pointed out that they could visibly see that I was sad and heartbroken and then they began to question how deep my roots were and if I was bearing good fruit. That moment really shaped how I approached the next few years after. It meant that I suffered in silence. It didn’t stop my pain, it just meant I kept it to myself and learned to smile a bit more and act cheery even when I felt heartbroken. There was no safety. To be honest, I didn’t even believe that what this specific leader had said, I just knew that they weren’t safe. At that moment I had hoped to find understanding and encouragement but instead was met with judgment.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.Romans 12:15-16
I love Romans 12 because the whole passage is on genuine love and what that should look like in our own life. Being a vulnerable leader means letting our guard down, it means allowing ourselves to have empathy. Vulnerability means sacrificing our need to share our wisdom in order to listen and connect to what others are experiencing regardless of whether we are rejoicing with them or weeping with them. We need to be with people where they are at, after all, that is what Jesus does has always done.
As church leaders, we get it wrong. We mess up, especially when we are dealing with things we don’t understand and have not experienced ourselves. We need to feel comfortable in those moments to say, I have no idea, I have never been through that but…I know someone who has. For myself, I want to always eir on the side of grace and empathy. There have been many times as a leader where I have gotten this wrong, where I know that I thought I was doing the right thing but I have hurt someone. In those moments I want to have the humility enough to say, I am sorry, I handled that wrong. As leaders, we need to be vulnerable. We need to admit when we get it wrong, we need to be quick to say sorry. We need to not be afraid of people we lead, seeing our faults. Again, our humanity is what connects us to each other. Our highlight reel will only isolate us and those around us.
My encouragement to you is, your own failures and weaknesses might be exactly what God wants to use, they may actually be the connection point to someone else finding freedom. Haven’t you experienced healing because someone else has been vulnerable enough to share? I know I have. People are craving authenticity in a world where authenticity is lacking. Choose to be someone people can connect to, someone who is confident regardless of their shortcomings because you know that God is bigger than your shortcomings. One of the most miraculous things about humanity is how we continue to thrive despite our weakness and insecurity because we recognize our need for God.