Vulnerability is scary and I’m not its greatest fan.
So I decided to start reading Brene Brown’s treatise on this sensitive subject, entitled Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Early on in the book, she had my attention by pointing out that experiencing deep joy can make us feel vulnerable, because we know that disappointment may follow. So, many of us have come up with a way to shield ourselves from the vulnerability that comes with joy. In the middle of profound happiness, we suddenly freeze in fear, waiting on something dreadful to shatter our delight. We imagine all sorts of terrible endings to this perfect moment, hoping that if we prematurely temper our joy, we might survive the shattering.
Oh yes, I thought, that’s me.
Terrified of heart-wrenching disappointment, I tend to remind myself of possible gloomy outcomes during joyful moments in an attempt to shield my heart. But from her research, Brown concluded that this protective mechanism is not only ineffective in protecting the heart from deep hurt, but also robs us from experiencing the joyful moments in life to their fullest potential.
Instead, she urged her readers to choose gratitude. Put down the shield of joy-bashing predictions and embrace the gladness with thankfulness. Based on her research, the choice to enter into vulnerability caused by joy, armed with gratitude, is a key to becoming what she calls a “wholehearted” person. And when the difficult moments come, the person with a grateful, receptive heart weathers the storm.
Who would have predicted that joy could be so frightening? It’s scary because we have no power to make it stay. Spurning joy is much safer, much more controlled. One can always predict an ending, since everything on this earth ends somehow, sometime.
And then I think of the Son of Man, who walked our dust for 33 years, knowing full well the painful ending that was to come. But He entered into joy. He entered into deep relationships with people who (He knew) would disappoint Him. He chose to love the very people who would spurn Him. And He lived His moments in gratitude to His Father.
Over the last few weeks, I have not been able to get away from a song performed by Housefires II called “One Thing.” (One Thing) The lyrics affirm over and over again: “Jesus, You are the One Thing that I need.” I’m starting to feel less afraid of opening myself to unpredictable joy, because I’m realizing that I’m already safe with the Only One Who never changes, never ends.
This realization makes me thankful. And somehow, gratitude gives me courage to embrace these joyous, vulnerable moments. Because if He really is the One Thing, the One Who keeps my heart, then I can trust Him to take care of my heart when pain arrives. I don’t need to run ahead of Him in my imagination, predicting pain while experiencing joy. I can just thank Him for the flashes of sunshine, and trust that He’ll have my back if the dark comes.
In your vulnerable moments of joy, I leave you with the words of C. S. Lewis: “Courage, dear heart.”