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.
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").