Wanna know one of the approximately 75,000 things that amazes me about children?
Sure you do. It astonishes and impresses me how quickly and easily children, especially young children, can befriend each other. You might've noticed it too, on a playground, a birthday party, meeting up with your adult friends and their kiddos, or even the first day of school. Even when another child is a perfect stranger, after a bit of a warming up period, longer for some temperaments than others, those two (or more!) strangers are soon best buddies. It is like all they can see in each other is a potential playmate. I imagine their unspoken dialogue like this:
It is a beautiful, magical skill that seems to unfortunately fade as we age. With wisdom, with age, with growth, with knowledge, with experience, somehow also comes a degree of mistrust, a tendency to withdraw, a dangerous habit of comparison, and perhaps too much of a reliance on the status quo. Change is hard. Making new friends is risky, and work. Reaching out takes bravery, and it takes energy. And if one is happy enough where one is doing what one is doing, why risk it?
But, what I have found...
Is that taking that risk usually pays off. I hate making new friends for those above reasons. I am the most outgoing introvert you could meet, and because of that I have trouble giving enough attention to the friendships I already have, so the idea of adding more exhausts and scares me. Being friendly, sure. Welcoming, of course! But letting others in, and participating in that blessed exchange of friendship....proceed with caution.
But, I've done it. I am doing it. Not with every single person I meet, but with discernment and care. Bit by bit, and then when the time is right, I go for it, or maybe my friend goes first. I bare myself to them, revealing a part of my life or my story or my personality. I become vulnerable before them, maybe sharing a personal fear, a little bit of specifics about my struggles with mental health, my parenting failures, marital issues, spiritual struggles, or any of my other numerous flaws. And what happens is that my friend feels free to also open up and be vulnerable too (or vice versa). It's like all we can see in each other is our own brokenness, and in that potential for healing. Our inner dialogue might be: "Hey, you are flawed and vulnerable?" "I am flawed and vulnerable!" "Let's be flawed and vulnerable together!"
And though we don't necessarily fix our "flaws" just by sharing them, and to be fair, most of our flaws aren't things that really need to be fixed, we do heal from the pain or shame or just plain loneliness caused by hiding our flaws. We think that by patching our cracks, we make ourselves stronger, so it comes as an exhilarating surprise to discover our strength in our vulnerability.
I have also found vulnerability empowering in other settings. I instruct group exercise classes in a gym that is in a church, and part of my job is to offer a little bit of faith talk at the end of class, so sharing scripture, reading a devotional, prayer, that kinda stuff. A couple years ago, when I started, this made me incredibly nervous and uncomfortable, but I did it anyway. I prayed, out loud, in front of other people, a couple of times per week. So, I was baring my spirit, the way I literally talk to our Creator, revealing what moves my soul and makes my heart weary, confessing in front of others. Becoming so vulnerable. And the craziest things happened. People would approach me after class and thank me for my "beautiful prayer." They would share that my reflections touched their hearts, because they could relate. They affirmed that my story is important. My stumbling words, my shaky voice, my wobbly knees, my nerves, didn't matter, what mattered was my vulnerability.
And even here, on my rambling blog, with any topic that pops into my mind, I have noticed, that the posts that get the most reaction, the most views, are the ones in which I have bared a little bit more than my cookie baking technique.
So, I encourage you today, friend, find a friend with whom your heart is safe and when the time is right, be brave, be bold and share your beautiful precious heart with them.