Who Do People Say I Am?

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Who do people say I am? by Robynn

According to research done by the Kansas Leadership Center one of the leadership competencies is ‘Managing self’. Part of that is knowing your strengths, vulnerabilities and triggers. It’s also knowing the story others tell about you.

Years ago, when our girls were tiny, friends left India, where we were all living at the time, to return to New Zealand. Before they left their little girl gave our little girls a framed picture. It certainly wasn’t high end art, by any stretch of the imagination, but it meant a lot to Adelaide and Bronwynn.

I was sitting at the dining room table, drinking a cup of coffee, catching up on some paper work, when I overheard the two girls chattering. “Our mommy is going to put a hook on the wall so we can hang up our picture,” Adelaide, then 5 explained to her 2 year old sister. She paused before further elaborating, “mommy’s going to put a hook right here.” What she said next made me snort with laughter, coffee spewing all over the table, “You see our mommy is a hooker, she’s a really good hooker”!

There was a day, ages ago, when Jesus, having just fed masses of people and helping a blind men regain his sight, was walking along with his friends. Out of the blue he turned to them, mid-stroll and asked, Who do people say I am? The friends offered a few of the names people were calling him, John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. They held back from telling him all that people were saying. They failed to mention heretic, lunatic, nut-job. He seemed to take that information in his stride. But who do you say I am? One of his best friends answers with confidence, You are the Messiah.

It was a sacred truth. Jesus didn’t want it made public. At least not yet. He then went on to invite them into that holy space. He began to share vulnerably what was ahead. He spoke of suffering and sorrow. He revealed weakness. He spoke of the dangers ahead, for himself but also for those he loved, his friends, his family. And he talked about it all with authentic openness. He was honest. He was plain. He was raw.

It made his friends uncomfortable. One close friend in particular, who had rightly pronounced who he thought Jesus was, now took him aside. He wanted Jesus to keep these things private….. Audaciously he reprimanded Jesus for saying such things.  Was it the gloominess of conversation? Was it the seeming weakness? The powerlessness? Whatever it was Jesus wasn’t taking it. He turned and rebuked his friend, “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Recently I’ve come to discover the danger of honesty. It effects people in different ways. Some are magnetically drawn to it. They realize they aren’t alone. It places them in community. It helps them to know that others struggle, others fall apart, others can’t manage everything perfectly. It brings them great relief. But there’s another group of people who find vulnerability to be a sign of weakness and a cry for help. They disdain it. It’s embarrassing. It’s awkward.

But maybe vulnerability is in part what Jesus was modeling. He was speaking of frailty and death, of suffering and rejection. His friends wanted him to be strong and invincible. Mentioning weakness made everyone feel susceptible. They wanted a message of strength and valour.

As writers and bloggers we process our worlds through words. We take what’s real to us and we work through it, writing it out, typing it tidy. Bloggers who protect themselves and others from their own pain come off as trite and superficial. The best bloggers give themselves, opening, plainly. Vulnerability is a natural byproduct of that process. It’s the whey from the cheese. It’s the chaff from the grain.

Adelaide told a tiny Bronwynn that I was a “hooker”. It’s not true. It’s not who I am. It’s who she said I was…but she was mistaken and she obviously misunderstood the meaning of the word. And now again in the face of my transparency a few have said I’m apparently in distress or in pain…that I’m weak and pathetic. A few have voiced concern.

Vulnerability and weakness are signs of strength. These are indicators that I’m growing in emotional health. I’m aware of my limitations. I’ve come to weakness through a feigned strength, through the back door of thinking I was independent and sturdy. Burnout graced me with an assurance that I’m not indestructible. I’m not god.

I offer you my self: vulnerable, transparent, exposing my weaknesses and my temptations, my vices, my victories, my soul and my heart. I stand before you as Robynn. I invite you into my story, into the places of pain that still percolate in my spirit. Come journey with me. Find community as you identify with what you read. Find the nearness of Jesus as you see him show up in my story. Find hope as you watch me trip over it. I’m finding those things too as I find the words to frame up the formations and revelations. Together we can discover that in our weaknesses He is strong. He is God and we are not.

Have you struggled with honesty? Have you had others misinterpret your vulnerability as weakness? How do you respond? 

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7 thoughts on “Who Do People Say I Am?

  1. Thanx SO much for this article!!! I’ve been struggling with this for a few yrs now~I’ve gone from keeping everything in the first 1/2 of my life, to letting it all out~and am finding that most people don’t really appreciate the raw truth! But when I’m going thru a bad spell (I suffer from severe chronic depression and BiPolar II along with Myalgic Encephalomylitis (doesn’t that sound daunting?! I used to call it Fibro/Fatigue, but it’s so much more complicated than that.) Even one of my sons and his wife seem to avoid me because I’m so open about my problems…But if I keep them to myself I feel like I’ll explode sometimes, and when I’m open at least I get encouragement from a few kind souls, which I so desperately need. It’s NOT socially acceptable to show our real selves, I’ve been told…and even christians can be so terribly judgemental (in fact they’re often the worst!) Once thing I’ve definitely learned thru it all it to be kind, compassionate and caring, altho when I’m going thru a manic spell (in BiPolar II we don’t do dangerous things, go on shopping sprees, etc~we are still totally exhausted, but we talk incessantly with no restraint~it all comes bubbling out, which is so embarrassing, humiliating and often hurtful as I get so negative. That alternates with the worst depression (I’ve read that it’s the most dangerous kind with the highest risk of suicide. I would never do anything deliberately to hurt my family/loved ones, or anything messy, or even wreck an old car…but the thots are so scary~and driving when I’m upset is dangerous…

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    1. I love your conclusion in the midst of it all….”to be kind, compassionate and caring…” I do think that’s one of the big lessons of vulnerability and risk. We learn to meet others in their vulnerable places too. It increases our empathy. Thanks for reaching out in response to this post.

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  2. I see you mention burnout. Can you point me to any blogs you’ve done on your burnout? and recover? I’m 12 years into burnout and still struggle at times with the inability to have a full day.

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    1. I’m so sorry to be so slow in responding to these comments. Burnout is part of my story but I’m not sure I’ve blogged much about it…except in brief referential spurts. I did have the privilege of co-authoring a book on the subject if you’d be interested. It’s called Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission by Sue Eenigenberg and (me!) Robynn Bliss. It’s my friend Sue’s research and my stories.
      You have my full sympathy. It has taken me a long long time to recover from burnout. And even now I’m not the same person I was. I tire more easily. I get colds more quickly. I take longer to recover from sicknesses. I often take naps. I’ve come to rely more fully on the Grace of God….I don’t think I really realized what all was involved in true grace before. Now I depend on it!

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  3. “Bloggers who protect themselves and others from their own pain come off as trite and superficial.” Wow, I think you are right. I never thought about it like that. (The hooker story is hilarious, by the way.)

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  4. Great post! The paragraph about the danger of honesty is “spot on!” as the British would say :) I have found this to be very true! As part of a missionary team, I am grateful now for coworkers who allow me to be vulnerable and who are open with their own struggles as well. This wasn’t always the case, though, and an ugly, difficult experience left me reeling. However, it was a wonderful time of learning and one of the biggest “take aways” is that it made me more determined than ever to be a “safe” person. Certainly not limited to, but especially for, other sisters in Christ. It hurts my heart to see scripture twisted to excuse hateful and unkind behavior.

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