“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV)
Intimacy. To know and to be known. This is not some marginal aspect of the human experience. It is the center of the target. We were made for it.
And we fear it.
We fear that our inadequacies will be exposed. We fear judgment. We fear rejection. We fear being finally and ultimately alone. Maybe if we hide our true selves—perhaps if we present some mere façade matching our valuation of the expectations of others—we can avoid being alone. But the very ways we hide keep us locked up in a prison of aloneness.
Don’t let them see me.
I’m fine. Really.
Why do I feel invisible?
Why does God seem so far away?
To truly move close to someone, I must bring them the real me. With God it can feel risky. With people it is risky. I’ve recently been reading a good bit of Brené Brown’s writings on vulnerability. She often equates vulnerability with “…uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure” (Daring Greatly). The very methods we employ to avoid ending up alone produce the reality of aloneness. Hiding my true self from others to avoid shame, judgment and rejection actually produces the very isolation it’s designed to prevent.
We embrace aloneness to avoid aloneness.
I didn’t learn aloneness in a vacuum. I’ve been shamed. I’ve been judged. I’ve been rejected. I’ve learned that people can’t always be trusted to love. I’ve learned that vulnerability leads to pain. So I decided to limit vulnerability in my life to avoid pain. When I made that decision, I also decided to limit my capacity for intimacy. I chose to live alone, surrounded by others.
I chose not to see. I chose not to be seen.
If I want to cultivate intimacy in my life, the very first step is to risk shame, judgment and rejection by exposing the real me to another. If I want to be visible, I must become visible.
For me this has been a difficult journey, made all the more difficult because there is a deeper issue. My problem of hiding to avoid rejection—to avoid being finally alone—is itself propped up by a deeper problem.
There is an orientation of my soul that makes it particularly unlikely that I will actually move toward authentic vulnerability. My assumptions about my need to protect me from your shame, judgment and rejection are built upon another set of assumptions.
I tend to see myself as a victim in all this. I choose to hide because you might reject me. I hide because of you. I am invisible because you might not see me. I am powerless to change you and am therefore doomed to hide in my aloneness.
What if this is not true?
What if vulnerability is not something anyone else gets to choose about me? What if I actually can choose who I’m going to be, or not be, in this life? What if vulnerability is something I can choose, even if rejection and shame are guaranteed?
What if vulnerability is something I can choose?
In the garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus choose vulnerability. On the cross we see him walk out that choice.
Gethsemane and the cross are not just a place for Jesus.
I too must choose. I belong in Gethsemane. I am crucified with Christ.
No one chose this for Jesus. He chose it. He chose to become a baby. He chose to live as a man. He chose to subject himself to shame, judgment and rejection.
He chose vulnerability.
He chose love.
He chose intimacy with you.
He chose to see and be seen, to know and be known.
What will you choose?
*”Cultivating Intimacy” originally appeared in Destiny in Bloom. Used with permission.