"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." C.S. Lewis
God built us with a very deep need to be in relationship...to BE SEEN.
From the very beginning of Creation God himself gives us the divine example of relationship, with the complex relationship of the Holy Trinity. This is an awesome intimacy that our hearts and heads can never competently fathom. Even though I may never fully understand it, the Trinity has taught me to appreciate the relational characteristics of our God. We are created in His image, with a need for relationships.
God saw her.
In Genesis, we see how our relational God seeks out us, in the form of Hagar ,a pregnant servant girl, in the wilderness when she was hurting and running from sin & pain.
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen The One who sees me." Genesis 16:13
Hagar uses the name of God, El Roi- The God Who Sees Me, to describe her intimate encounter with the Almighty. This is the only time in the Bible where this particular name is used for God. What awesome beauty in that.
God saw Hagar. God saw a scared, lonely, hurting, and broken girl.
Most of us can admit that we want to sought after like Hagar was in the wilderness. God saw her. He sees us. He sees me, the broken, lonely girl that I am.
Vulnerability is a two way Street.
Paul prays that the church at Phillipi would have love that abounded in knowledge and depth of insight. Phil 1:9 Seeking out anothers' heart is an exercise in learning to love with insight.
We are called to be observant of those in need, to always seek a love of understanding. While I wholeheartedly encourage transparency and authenticity, there are seasons in life where others may be too raw to share what they need to others.
If you see someone hinting at a struggle, let them know you are safe place to talk. Ask open-ended questions and allow them to process.
In my experiences, vulnerability and true intimacy begins when you feel like some genuinely wants to know your story, just for the sake getting to know you better, no judging involved.
My prayer is to discern how I can see another's unspoken needs ; like providing a meal for a worn out mother, or arranging a date night with my spouse when it isn't expected, but sorely needed. Many times in seasons of extreme hurt a person does not have the courage or strength to even ask for help, or discern what help they need.
We must be open and honest to our own need to be seen. Yes, there are seasons when you have nothing to give and need someone to pull you of the pit without being asked, but we must also recognize that no one can supernaturally see into our hearts but God.
I have been guilty of unfairly thinking loved ones can only show love if they first observe my need without me saying it (anyone else unfairly expect your husband to be a mind reader?!?!) I have failed to be honest when I am feeling worn, out of fear of being "needy". I love that my husband can sometimes mistake me for Super Mom, but admitting him to him I need help is best for me and our marriage.
It also just plain unfair, and fruitless, to expect others to supernaturally see those places that are emotionally raw. Remember God is the only who can See your heart, but he graciously gives us friends and family who would love to know you, to see you.
Honesty about my heart goes double in my relationship with God, I have to be honest with him about my doubts, my sins, and my heart. The beauty is he has already seen it all, and still loves me. From that confidence in knowing He loves me, I can be courageous with others about my heart.
Seeing others can help you heal.
God will shape and change your own heart through the process of sharing another's hurt. My personal experience has been that sharing vulnerable moments with another can unexpectedly bring about the healing you were seeking.
In genuine conversations others who are hurting, the Holy Spirit has often brought me a new perceptive on on my own pain, or has given me the wondrous gift of comforting someone else. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Comforting others is a tried and true road to healing.
The need to be seen is valid, but in our need, sometimes I worry we forget to see others. I know I can get so blinded by my own hurt and grief, that seeing others is almost impossible. I am not saying there are not season of grief; there are times where we must feel the pain of loss. Jesus himself wept over his friend Lazarus's death, but vulnerability to share our pain & burdens with our sisters and brothers in Christ is what the church was designed for, and ultimately one of the ways God brought me healing. After hearing of John the Baptist's death in Mark 5, Jesus invited his friends, the disciples, to come away with him to rest & recover. Jesus teaches us we are better together.
Vulnerability leads to intimacy, and intimacy leads to accountability.
God sees our whole heart, the yucky parts too. If we are not willing to also share the worse parts of us, then we are not truly genuine when we share the good. "Being seen" means also receiving truth from others.
I heard once that everyone needs a biblical "Jonathan and Nathan" in their lives. The Jonathan will bring you unconditional affection and love in all circumstances The Nathan loves you enough to speak truth in way that brings about repentance.
Warning for those who think themselves natural "Nathans". Many people believe they are 'Nathans' when they "speak truth", but they inadvertently become a Pharisee. "Speaking truth in love" means you love the PERSON as much as they love the truth you need to share. Nathan loved David. He knew and studied David. He knew the most effective way to bring about a better intimacy with God for David.
Be careful not to take the name of "Nathan" until you check your motivation. Are you wanting another to repent to you (i.e admit you were right?), or to repent to God and grow closer to Him?
Vulnerability demands discernment
Godly Wisdom is essential when deciding who let see your true heart. Below are three important rules I have learned (some of the hard way).
- A person can be inappropriate for you to be intimate with, based solely on their gender or your other relationships. For example, it is inappropriate for a married woman sharing her deep heart struggles to a man who isn't her husband, in turn creating an intimacy that is to be reserved solely for your mate.
- Vulnerability 'spread too thin' can also be unwise. It can be a challenge to discern where to be vulnerable in a world of social media, with hundreds, if not thousands, of online "friends". Some feel perfectly comfortable with dozens of "deep' friendships, but my experience has proved a few deep relationships are much more fulfilling to my need "to be seen" than several acquaintances.
- There are people who seek only to be seen, with no intention of 'seeing' you. John Townsend and Henry Cloud discuss in their book, “Boundaries”, discernment when forming deep relationships. Some people may expect you to carry their everyday loads, with no effort on their part to carry their own load, and with no reciprocity involved. While there is healing to be found in helping someone through their crisis, be aware of a lop-sided relationship that will eventually become unhealthy for both parties (i.e. Co-dependent) .If you feel like you are in a lop-sided relationship, I highly recommend by "Boundaries" Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.