Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The "V" Word


 
I love true stories, so was looking forward to reading the autobiography of a well-known Christian leader I admired.  Although his ministry was inspiring, I had trouble connecting with him.  It seemed that his whole life went from one glorious victory to another, leaving me feeling inadequate.  In contrast, when I read autobiographies of people like Joni Eareckson, Corrie Ten Boom, and Billy Graham, I feel encouraged.  What’s the difference?  Well, I think it’s the “V” word – vulnerability.  Each of them has had an incredible ministry, yet they’re also honest about their shortcomings and challenges, and that gets me in.  I want to know more about people who have struggled and yet have journeyed on with God.  If He could use them with all of their weaknesses, maybe He could use me.

Mary Southerland notes that “everything that touches your life passes through God’s hands, with His permission and for a reason.  Writing is simply the record of God at work in your life, shared through your eyes and with your heart” (from For the Write Reason).  If we want to be authentic and touch people with stories of what God has done in our lives, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and that often goes against the grain in our society.  Aren’t we meant to be strong and independent?  Won’t it affect our witness if we share our doubts, insecurities, and failings?  If that’s all we share, then maybe it will.  But if we show how God met us where we were, accepted us, loved us, forgave us, and helped us move on, then our message will be more powerful than if we just shared the victories.

Some years ago, I was asked to contribute to a book called “The God Factor: 50 Scientists and Academics Explain Why They Believe in the God of the Universe”.  I’ve been a university lecturer in psychology for many years and I intended to write an academic article on the integration of psychology and Christianity.  However, when I prayed about it, God made it clear that He didn’t want me to write an academic article, but a personal story about my experiences as an adopted person.  I’d shared my adoption testimony to small Christian groups, but had never written about it for the public domain.  This was scary.  People would know personal stuff about me, my relatives might read it, the earth would open up and swallow me.  Aarrgghh!

However, I couldn’t get away from the fact that God wanted me to share my heart and so I did.  To my surprise, the earth didn’t cave in.  In fact, a few people contacted me to say how it had touched them, including the elderly daughter of a famous Australian who phoned to talk about her experiences as an adoptive mother.  After having another short piece on adoption published in a devotional magazine, I received a heartfelt letter from a birth mother on the other side of the world who wanted to share her experiences of being rejected by her daughter.  Wow!  God could actually use this stuff!

Allowing myself to be vulnerable wasn’t easy because I value my privacy.  As I’ve shared the things God has laid on my heart, however, I’ve learned to trust that He will use them to bless someone going through the same issues and it blesses me in return.  It’s still a learning curve though.  I have a couple of other personal issues on the backburner that I know God will prompt me to write about at some stage, but they’re still a bit raw at the moment.  One day.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”  (NIV).  Do you have a personal story that could bless others?  If that idea’s a bit scary at the moment, just start putting your thoughts in a journal and God will show you when it’s time to share them more widely.  As we share the “V” word of our vulnerabilities, God may just turn them into the “V” word of victory.
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Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 80 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction).  She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragment"). 
 

26 comments:

  1. Great post, Nola, and so true, but a real challenge. I think showing our vulnerabilities gets more difficult as we get older - especially if we haven't practiced sharing them. I find with my grandchildren I so want to be wise and helpful and knowing, but actually discover that sometimes I have the most impact with them when I show my weaknesses.

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    1. Hi Carol - thanks for that. I think the way we handle weaknesses can be a great example. I did some courses with YWAM many years ago and we all had to share in some of the housekeeping duties. I was on bathroom duty for 12 weeks and usually did a good job, but there were a few days when I probably didn't do it as thoroughly as I should have. The supervisor mentioned it to me and I later went and apologised to her. Someone else told me weeks later that she had been really impressed with that because people usually didn't apologise when she mentioned problems with their work. So we never know what will make an impression on someone. I still don't like cleaning bathrooms though :)

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  2. Well said. The whole truth is where the powerful testimony lies. Vulnerability is scary. The month before I released Though the Bud be Bruised was nerve wracking. What would people think of me? Would they abuse me? Ignore me? But I'm so gals I told my story warts and all. It has helped so many people. Thanks Nola.

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    1. Thanks for that Jo. I think you were very brave with your book, but it's having such an impact. If you'd pussy-footed around, it just wouldn't be the same. Not sure I'd have the courage to write that sort of book, but it's definitely needed.

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  3. thanks Nola, good reminder to write authentically.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I need to keep reminding myself too :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing this, Nola.

    Being vulnerable is something that God has been challenging me about lately and in the process I came across this quote: "And the book you write must come from your whole self."

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    1. Thanks for that Susan. I like the quote. I think people can smell a phoney a mile away, so it's important to be authentic. Though I find it's sometimes an interesting balance to work out what to say when, where, and to whom. I'd be interested if anyone has any thoughts on that.

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  5. What a Nola. When I read your thoughtful and encouraging article above 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 popped into my head

    “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

    I have realised the vast difference between the humanness of us and the majesty of God. How God can use our ignorance, mistakes, foolishness and weakness to bring majestic and glorious things to this world, we call blessings, and some may call good fortune. Even, in the evidence of this we can forget that without him we are nothing. It is incredible that through Jesus our lives can be such a tremendous blessing to so many. I get a rush of excitement just reflecting now.

    What sanctification to go out of this mortal world touching the lives of others via God’s love and what a blessing to have transformed our blunders, foolishness or weaknesses into something eternally significant.

    It is not an easy road but it is the most rewarding.

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    1. Thanks for that Kayleen. Some realy good thoughts there. So many examples in the Bible of very ordinary people with lots of flaws and weaknesses who were used in a mighty way. As you said, not always an easy road but well worth it.

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  6. Thanks so much Nola. What a lovely post. I really loved the way you explored the truth of that V word and what it means. I totally agree that how we can bless and reach others is often through our vulnerabilities rather than our victories.

    Thanks also for encouraging me. I've just finished a book where I've shared a lot about myself and the tough times I have been through. I feel pretty vulnerable - thinking of what it might sound like when people read it. It's not the strangers I am worried about but people close to me! :) But I believed that God wanted me to share my story - in order to bless others. And so had to risk it.

    Your blog really blessed me because it's as if God was saying 'Don't worry about it Anusha. Just be faithful to your calling. I will take care of the rest'.

    So thanks Nola.
    May we all stay true to our calling in 2013,
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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    1. Thanks for that Anusha. Can't wait to read your new book. And I agree that it's often the people closest to us that we worry the most about. I also find it's an interesting balance when other people's stories overlap with ours - Sometimes difficult to be open about ourselves without infringing on others' privacy. Still thinking through that one re some of the stories I'd like to share. Thanks for your tips the other day too :)

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    2. Exactly Nola. It's others' privacy too that matters isn't it? I haven't shared a lot I could have because of it. Or share things in ways that others' privacy isn't invaded.

      Nice to hear you too face similar issues. Well done on your post. :)

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  7. Great article, Nola! Thanks for sharing your balanced view on the 'V' word. Inspiring and uplifting reading.

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    1. Thanks Candy. Great to hear from you. Glad you liked it. God Bless.

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  8. I endorse all the comments above, Nola! With my own book 'Soul Friend', released last year, I used entries I had written in my journals in recent years and had to think long and hard about being vulnerable enough to share these with my readers. I'm so glad I did though, as this is definitely what touches people.God bless!

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    1. Thanks Jo. That's a great example and it's obviously blessing a lot of people. How would you compare writing such a personal book after your novels? Was it harder to write "Soul Friend"?

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    2. I wouldn't say it was harder to write 'Soul Friend' Nola--just a different sort of challenge. You can be all sorts of characters (or part thereof) in your novels and hopefully get away with saying lots of interesting things! But in 'Soul Friend', I had to 'own' my own thoughts and ideas right up front.

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    3. Thanks Jo. That's a great example. Scary stuff but well worth it :)

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  9. Yes, none of us have the perfect life no matter how it might look to others. I am learning to share my vulnerability. It is difficult to do especially when people expect you to be the strong one who they come to for help. A lot our not exposing ourselves has to do with pride also, and as Christians we need to have humility..(especially me!) We never stop learning do we. Vulnerability to Victory, I like that.

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  10. Thanks for that Crystal. That's a really good point about humility. I know I worry far too much sometimes about what other people will think, when I should be worrying about what God thinks. It's definitely still a learning curve.

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  11. Nola, I can relate to this so well. I recently submitted 2 articles to a new Magazine publication. It wasn't until the second edition was being given away for free that I realised, I had just poured my heart out; now, friends and family would read of my struggles. GULP! I felt like I wanted to crawl into the PC and retrieve every single word I had written! I've since realised that vulnerability is exactly what God needs/wants me to share in that particular publication; and so I will continue to be totally honest in my articles - even if it does feel a little like that dream where you turn up to work or school dressed in . . . well, not very much at all! :-)

    Nola, may God bless you abundantly as you continue to shine forth his beautiful light through your experiences.

    Helen.

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    1. Thanks for that Helen and good on you for sharing your heart in that magazine. It is scary, but I'm sure God will bless many people through your honesty.

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  12. I think most of us have grown up with the idea of hiding our real feelings, and it's far easier to pop on a mask. Thanks Nola for opening up. Even when writing fiction I'm learning to write my vulnerability into my characters' lives. Especially as we're writing Christian lit. We need to "ring true".

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    1. Hi Rita - thanks for that. I think it's so easy to wear a mask even at church - I think sometimes there's a fear of showing what we're really like in case people think less of us, but meanwhile everyone's sitting there with the same problems thinking they're the only one. And I agree about fictional characters also needing to "ring true". I've read a few Christian novels that were enjoyable at one level, but unreal on another. Flaws show the humanity, but also what God can do with flawed people. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Hi Anusha - I find it can sometimes be quite tricky to find the right balance between being authentic with my own story while respecting the privacy of those whose stories overlap with mine, especially if the other person could come across in a negative way (e.g., if it's someone who's hurt you). That could be another whole blog post in itself. I'll race you for it :)

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