I am consistently overwhelmed by the love I’ve received this year. The other week at roundtable, we were having a “check-in.” This is where we check-in with Theresa and talk about how the program is treating us. I remember saying something like this: “I knew I would think you guys were okay people. But, I wasn’t expecting on gaining eight new best friends. Eight, nine including Mama T, who I know I can call at two in the morning when I can’t move or trust or feel. Eight people who are friends for life. Who have listened to my shambly, broken, and inconsistant story, and loved me just the same.”
As a child of church and youth groups, I’ve always heard the word vulnerability. I’ve often thought I’ve lived it. As a person who is not afraid to share her feelings, I thought I was actually pretty good at vulnerability. I’d share my story and feel good about it. I gave myself a gold star because I thought I’d done the right thing by simply sharing my shame. Turns out, I was only scraping the surface of the scars on my heart.
If you’ve heard of Brene Brown, I’m sure you’ve heard this quote. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.” I had not heard this until this year. Every time I read it I get choked up. I get this way because I think of my story. My broken, often shame-filled story. I think of how every single one of my fellow Fellows have listened to my story.
Not only have they listened, but they’ve loved. They’ve looked on me with empathy and understanding. Hugged me, held me, cried with me, and never, ever, shamed me. This year, I’ve come to learn that vulnerability is so much more than being willing to share your story. Vulnerability is a two way street. It only works when you have people on the other side of your story willing to empathize and love you. It only works when you share your deep, dark, cellar-heart secrets, not in hopes that people will respect or revere you, but in the hope that they’ll love you. That they will straight up love the shame right out of your heart. That is what these eight people have done for me this year.
I had people in my childhood willing to love me, but I didn’t listen to them. I let my shame take over. I let myself believe I was not enough. Not pretty enough, skinny enough or holy enough. These eight people affirm these things about me every day. They listen to my doubts and reply with affirmations. As someone who has the love language of words of affirmation, this is a huge deal. I now have eight (nine including our Mama T) friends who have showed me what true vulnerability looks like. It looks like this picture taken by our own Jillian Runser.
It looks like nine people, sitting around a circle sharing food, jokes, and laughter. It happens when I’m not afraid to wear my pj’s to roundtable. It happens when I feel so loved and affirmed by friends, that I am not afraid to share what shame I feel. I know that my fellows will receive it with love and empathy. It happens when nine people from all over the country come together and without fear of shame, share their hearts and get love in return. It only happens when we are willing to look at the Father’s love for us. It happens when I pour out our inner most secrets to those who are staring at the Father and now see me through His eyes.
I have nine people now. Nine friends I can tell anything to. Nine friends who make me laugh when I want to cry, run when I want to fall, and pray when I want to curse. I have nine friends who have shown me that being vulnerable isn’t about making me feel good. It’s about making me see who I am in Christ. Making me see that He has taken my shame away. So, Theresa, Andy, Sara, Emily, Mary, Lauren, Ali, Jill, and Charlie. Thank you. Thank you for a sensational Fellows year. Here’s to us. Here’s to us, pouring out our shame and watching it disappear through God’s grace.