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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