Life & Reflections

On Cherishing Vulnerability & Other Musings

A few months ago, I spent an afternoon interviewing Pam and Rachel, two of the founders behind a dinner picnic initiative, Hygge, for a YMI article I was writing.

During our interview, Pam recounted an incident in which a guest had shared something a little ‘too personal’. The others at the picnic didn’t know how to respond, so they just awkwardly changed the subject.

“Not many people know how to handle vulnerability, but that’s always something we try to push, because we think that’s something very precious,” she had said.

This struck me. How could vulnerability be something precious?

In our society, vulnerability is often translated as weakness. We self-censor ourselves, keeping our cares and fears hidden in the light of day. We apologise when we share too much and too deep. We let awkward silences devour us rather than utter what’s truly on our minds.

Because vulnerability is so rarely shown, we assume it doesn’t really exist; or at least, that it ought not to.

Don’t think too much. Cheer up! Tomorrow will be better, we tell others, and to a large extent, ourselves.

Vulnerability should be cherished, not feared.

To be sure, strength and resilience are human traits that ought to be admired and championed, but not always. The moments we take off our masks to reveal who we genuinely are–with all our sadnesses, scars and sins–are the moments when we’re most honest with ourselves and with those around us.

Our vulnerability shouldn’t be shunned, it should be treasured. Because it’s what reminds us that we’re human.

***

When we asked Pam and Rachel why they did Hygge–free of charge and in their free time–they paused. They glanced at each other meaningfully, as they searched for the right words to express something they had never articulated before.

It was obvious that the duo hadn’t been crafting PR-perfect responses or practising lines in front of the mirror.

Coming from a background in journalism, I was surprised. I had presumed our interview would be like others I’ve conducted before: pre-arranged, rehearsed and largely superficial.

If it were the other way round, I probably would’ve prepared a mental script of what to say. I would’ve wanted people to listen to me and think, “Wow, this girl is mature/confident/qualified. She knows what she’s talking about.”

I often carry this mindset when I want to make a good impression, be it on colleagues or even strangers. But the problem is when I treat my faith in a similar way: as something that can be conveyed purely through verbal communication; and that if people just heard or read what I had to say, they would understand and believe. But I forget that how I live has a far more lasting impact than a fleeting first impression.

For Pam and Rachel, Hygge wasn’t about explicitly evangelising about Jesus, but giving others a taste of what it meant to be part of his family, if only for an evening. It wasn’t about handing out pamphlets or uttering prayers for others to hear, but living out Christlikeness in humility and earnestness. It wasn’t about throwing around words like salvation and grace and body of Christ, but doing something that a saved person who knows grace and experienced fellowship which spoke louder than any answer they could’ve parroted when asked, “So what made you do this?”

***

Being a testimony for God means living out your faith, not just talking about it.

I had always assumed that a certain glib charisma was a necessary life skill. Yet it’s beginning to dawn on me that there’s little value to memorising a perfectly worded testimonial if my life doesn’t reflect that.

After all, how can I say God is love, when I don’t care for my loved ones or pray for their needs? How can I say I’ve been forgiven, when I bear grudges against siblings and strangers for perceived slights? How can I talk about being saved, when I’m still walking in my old, corrupt ways for all to see?

In a similar vein, it’s so easy for me to declare or dream about my hopes and higher purposes, and imagining myself fulfilling them one day… as long as it’s not today.

The temptation to justify my procrastination and inaction often bleeds into the biggest to the smallest things in life: from setting aside half an hour to pray and read God’s Word, to bringing my grandma out for breakfast, or even just texting a friend to ask how she’s doing.

Too tired or too busy, I tell myself. It’s always one or the other.

But I know that’s not true. Because I’m not too ‘tired’ or ‘busy’ to watch one more YouTube video, or to flick down my Facebook feed, or to completely disappear into the black hole of the Internet.

And thus the self-promised ‘one day’ remains unfulfilled, for yet another day.

A meaningful life is created through our actions, not just intentions.

Dreams are a dime a dozen. But they’re absolutely worthless if we don’t act on them.

Talking to Pam and Rachel made me realise how they didn’t just dream–they did.

At the risk of sounding clichéd, all this has since got me thinking: How am I spending my time and using my gifts? How have I made a difference in the lives of those around me? How am I living beyond my selfish and narrow desires, for something far more worthwhile and meaningful than merely self-gratifying my flesh?

Now that I’ve raced past my teenage years and am already a quarter way into my twenties, this quote has been whispering to me louder and louder these days, and with greater urgency and frequency:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

How are we spending our days?

 

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