Who Do People Say I Am?

lemon tea

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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When You Realize Injustice Begins in Your Heart

Freedom trail
Doesn’t he look HOT in his outfit?!

It’s sweat-dripping, sidewalk-sweating hot. A “virtual sauna-bath” says one weather site.

I shuffle through downtown and the homeless population lolls complacently. No amount of me buying people cold coffee, blueberry flavor, extra cream and sugar with a croissant on the side will take away the fact that right now I hate every one of them. Hate the lethargy. Hate the laziness. Want to scream “Get a job!”

It’s so easy to judge. 

And because I’m that way, and judging is as catchy as a virus my wandering eye finds more people to judge.

That lady, so perfectly coiffed? She’s got it easy. I just know she has central air-conditioning and ‘plays’ at her job. I bet you real money that she shops at Nordstroms and Talbots (Not the outlet) and by God – look at her gold!

And that family? Happily on vacation?….Why on earth do they have to ride the subway at seven am? Sleep-in for God’s sake!

I’m so busy judging that I bump into a wall. Literally.

And that’s where I belong because only a wall and the Living Breathing Spirit of God can knock some sense into me. I easily condemn injustice and brokenness in the world without recognizing where I contribute to it. Every single day in uncountable ways.

Because injustice begins in my heart. Brokenness is birthed in my soul. 

I long to see a world transformed without realizing it needs to start in this heart. The one in my body. The one that beats a slow pulse – 62 beats per minute. The only heart I have any control over.

“Transform me inside out, upside down, right side up. Show me O Lord how I contribute to the injustice and sin-brokenness of the world and then by your mercy – change me”. This is my early morning prayer

The Unpublished Chapters

20130327-112312.jpg“My dear fellow. We all have chapters we would rather keep unpublished.” Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey

Jennifer Lawrence has wooed Hollywood and beyond with her real, down to earth, gutsy honesty. She seems to be what everyone has waited for. Some authenticity from Hollywood plastic.

We are in an era where authenticity is applauded. We want ‘real’. We want ‘authentic’. We want the gritty, the broken, the messy. Those of us who are Christians say we want it because we want to remind ourselves, and others, that Christ died for messy. He died for broken. He died to redeem all that.

And that’s not a bad thing.

But at the end of the day – all of us have unpublished chapters and perhaps we should keep it that way.

Perhaps it’s a good thing.

The idea that we are to be emotionally ‘naked’, fully honest with everyone is a cultural value gone wild. The idea that all can carefully handle our truth is a myth, a dream of a perfect society. The notion that ‘authenticity’ means bearing it all – a 21st century fallacy.

Because much of God’s work takes place in our unpublished chapters.

Much of his cutting, his cleansing, his replacing is done behind closed doors. Surgeons don’t let everyone into their sterile field – only those who have been properly trained and can assist with the surgery. I believe the same is true with God – he doesn’t want us to let just anyone in.

And perhaps that is the danger of the public world in which we live. A world where we are to tell all and more in order to appear authentic.

But then we realize the world can’t handle it and does not treat it with care. We thought we were being authentic – but we are skewered in the name of analyzing and critical thinking. That real, authentic, genuine stuff that we have gone through, felt deeply, shared with trembling, is figuratively cast before the swine of our day.

Instead of feeling free and supported, we end up crushed and hurt, feeling the weight of being misunderstood with our private selves revealed.

Can we give each other grace and understanding that there is a major back story without having to share it with everyone? Through blogging I have been privileged to hear a few of your back stories – your unpublished chapters. And they are amazing – they reflect resilience and grace, courage and faith. And I guard them with care.

In turn, I have been able to share with some of you my unpublished chapters – the things that will never go on this blog. They are too dear to me, too fragile, too counter-culture to share.

And so I say to you – Guard your unpublished chapters. Everyone is not capable of reading them and handling their truth.

“Because you’re not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are. “~ Madeleine L’Engle