“Adequacy is a liability.”
Such was the wisdom offered me by a godly, humble, precious sister in Christ. We were talking about writing – something we both love, and a craft with which my friend has much more experience than I do.
Writers write to process our thoughts, to “chill,” to remember, to discover possible solutions to the sometimes perplexing problems life presents us, to create, to speculate.
But when we write and then put our writing out there for someone else to read, we write to connect: Can you relate to where I am? Where I’ve been? Have you, too, experienced something like ______? Does anybody even care?
What my friend was saying was simply this: if you really want to connect to people, you are going to have to be vulnerable. This is true not only in writing, but also in our relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances.
When I was a small girl, my big brother had an annoying habit of “stiff arming” me. He was much bigger than I was – and he had much longer arms. Occasionally, he’d plant his palm on my forehead, straighten his arm, and then tell me to take a swing at him. I’d go at it, swinging my fists with all my might. But because he held me firmly at arm’s length, I never landed a blow. Eventually, I would grow exhausted and give up. (I thought this game was extremely frustrating. My brother thought it was hysterically funny.)
Now, my brother has not gone through life with a “stiff arm” mentality – that was just a childhood game. He is actually very affectionate and loves hugs. But for some folks, “stiff arming” is the only way they operate: “You’re not going to get close enough to hurt me, but you’re not going to get close enough to share in what delights me, either. Or close enough to know what frightens me. Or to know the dreams I have tucked away in the secret places of my heart. You are certainly not going to get close enough to know my weaknesses or to see my scars.”
What a safe, sad, lonely place to be.
The apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, affirms my friend’s counsel: But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I often struggle with a “stiff arm” mentality myself. Weird thing is, when I close other people out, when I withdraw inside my safe zone and hide my hurts and my struggles, I become more and more miserable.
There are people I love who live life with a “stiff arm” mentality. It’s like they have some invisible Star Wars defense shield that I just keep banging up against. I am stuck on the outside, looking in. If I persist in trying to breach that invisible shield, it just seems to grow harder and harder as they retreat further and further behind it. Exhausting. Frustrating. Heart-breaking.
I do not want to live my life behind a sterile, silent, protective shield. For the sake of Christ, I want to learn to rejoice in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For Christ’s sake, and for his glory.
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“The only requirement to be a writer is to remember every scar.” – Stephen King
“…the inner scars, the deep thoughts, and the vulnerable spaces in our lives are often the ones other people connect with the most. If we hold our tender areas captive, we can’t free someone else who needs permission to release their own fears.” – Anita Agers-Brooks