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The Art of Vulnerability: Finding the Risks Worth Taking

Last week I spent traveling, which is something I don't do often. My love of my home and my hatred of having to sit still for too long generally keep me within a couple of hours of where I live, but last week I went for broke and made it a whopping 4,600 miles away.

It was a perfect opportunity I couldn't pass up. So off I set into a land that didn't speak my language and required me to take foreign public transit completely on my own. Thankfully I had a sweet friend by my side and google maps. There were upsides and downs. It was expensive. I definitely spent 4x the amount of time I wanted to in the airport. We had to navigate unfamiliar culture and few free bathrooms. (What?!?! Come on! It's the most common human experience! Why would you not provide for that?!?)

But I saw the size of the world, tasted treats, and consumed art in a way I couldn't have otherwise. I laughed and cried with my friend. I rested from my normal life. I tried new things.

Was it safe? Yes and no. I could have been mugged. (I wasn't). I could have been pick pocketed (I wasn't). I could have wet my pants for sure! (I didn't). I certainly got embarrassed. I got close to a panic attack. But I am ok and I am glad I went.

Most of us avoid vulnerability because it's scary and can be painful if it doesn't go well. But wisely choosing moments of vulnerability is the only way to intimacy. Intimacy with ourselves, intimacy with others, and intimacy with God.

While all of us humans are naturally vulnerable (meaning limited and weak), letting the world happen to you is not the same thing as choosing vulnerability (meaning taking chances). Letting the world happen to you is just choosing to be a victim of cruel fate. From time to time cruel fate will happen anyway, whether you try or not.

Choosing to be vulnerable is a brave and strategic way to meet the world head on. It's living intentionally, knowing you can never mitigate all the risks. It's actually owning your life. And it can be exhausting! Not every risk produces the success you hope, but you certainly will learn from it and develop confidence (either in your practical abilities or your ability to recover from failure).

The personal risks include admitting your failures, learning new things, and making effort toward big goals you've set for yourself. As you make each choice, you will find out who you are! You will discover the layers of beauty, strength, and perhaps fragility you didn't even know lived inside of you.

Interpersonal risks include letting people know how you feel about them, going first in initiating connection, and admitting when you are wrong. Those brave risks clarify what your relationships are made of. They have the potential to bring you closer and deeper (and also to let you know whom you need to let go of).

Risks with God include being honest with Him (even if your feelings don't match what you wish you were able to believe) and actually taking steps toward your calling even though you can't see exactly how He's going to provide for you in those places. Taking risks with the God Who Saves His People is the safest of risks, but sometimes we learn that He is not a genie who just gives us what we ask for. His goodness is defined by something else, the thing we actually need: shalom.

All of these could be considered "dumb" to the outside observer. Afterall, they're risks! But only you can make the call on which risks you feel are worth taking because this is your one and only life. If you are ready to connect with yourself, God, and others, what risks of vulnerability will you take today?

Want to read about my own journey with vulnerability and intimate connection? Check out my book Love Well. It includes journalling prompts to get your started processing your own story.

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