My post on vulnerability double bluffing caused quite the readership spike. Some who protectively told me my psych nemesis was off base, because “you’re a writer, daaahlink, you must edit, must process, must use humour as part of your art. It is like breathing.” (Use an Ivana Trump accent when reading that sentence). Others who responded a lack of vulnerability was due to a resilient layer built through experiences on the back of hurt and heartache.
And then there were the vulnerability double-bluffers (VDBs). Oh my. I think we could set up a private Facebook therapy group because so many of you identified.
So are VDBs inauthentic? No way. Let me be clear. We aren’t bluffing others. We are ridiculously real. It’s just that our modus operandi occasionally means we can forget to check in with our current level of willingness to be vulnerable. It becomes a dangerous blind spot.
VDBs are often honest to the point of stupidity. There’s a rawness that needs to be tempered (aka a need for filtering and greater diplomacy) because double-bluffers have often been through the fire, survived it, got to quite like themselves in the process, realised life is short, prefer not to waste time on ‘scratch the surface conversations’ and would rather dive right in to the heart of it. Others may not have survived the fire, they are simply born wired seeking connection and have a lack of patience when it comes to digging it out.
Which makes meeting new people an interesting exercise. It’s like speed dating. The VDB wants you to open up quickly, seeks to crack into that vulnerability, because why on earth do we want to waste time talking about how you earn your money, reality TV shows you may have watched, whether you get waxed or do laser? We want YOU. We want to get past your anxieties, your protective armour, and dance into your soul. What makes you tick? Can we have a real connection? Will you be as honest we can be? Will you be vulnerable?
This is the enigma of vulnerability. Someone has to be brave enough to go first. We all want it, yet most of us are scared to give it. To test those sort of waters requires giving vulnerability. So VDBs, in our desire to forge real, lasting connection, deliver our vulnerability medal stories. ‘Here I am,” we say. “Stripped bare (enough) so you feel safe (enough) to give me some vulnerability back.”
Which allows us to dive into the heart of the matter fairly quickly. But VDBs need to beware the blind spot. Mine is writing. My preferred mode of communication means I can and do hide behind a keyboard or, if I have to articulate vocally, a phone. In retrospect, that first phone call with the smart-alec pastor (SAP)? VDbluffing on a roll. I dived through job rejection, splashed into suicide discussions, waded into biblical masturbation (Onan’s seed, you had to be there) and, as a vulnerable finale, shared dreams/signs/hymns from God. Ta Da! I mean, seriously, would you share that sort of stuff in a first phone call and email with a complete stranger? Worse, not only a complete stranger, but one who could have been proper, Godly and starch dog-collared? What was I thinking?
Ah. Note the mediums. Blind spot alert. Face to face I’d never have torn those topics apart. Back then I hadn’t learnt about the pure, unconditional, supported love of God and Jesus. All I knew was that I was having some odd spiritual prodding, Bibles were falling at my feet, and it was time to deal. I had to get to the heart of it before my courage failed me. So out came the VDB medal stories, the phone and the keyboard. Let me be vulnerable (enough) and honest (enough — actually, probably too much) so I can check out your willingness to return the same.
And (gosh, I’m really disliking that psych nemesis) that’s the kicker: writing and verbalising behind technology should never be enough. Eye-contact. Sharing vulnerable stories. Letting it all hang out. That’s what God wants, even demands of us.
God, I have since discovered, delivers the best way of rewarding my vulnerability. It’s the joy. The life-preserver I hang onto when vulnerability threatens to swamp. Joy when a line in a hymn takes me out at the knees and the heart. Talking with a Christian I meet at the church for the first time about powerful Godmoments and, right there, face-to-face, all eye contact, no keyboards, we both have tears in our eyes. Vulnerable. Open. Joyful.
So I’m happy to take the first step. Extend the invitation. Be vulnerable. Because it’s the path to joy. And as for the double bluff? Well, I’ll let you into a secret. I originally decided to stop blogging this year. I’d shared my journey with the hound of heaven, posted about my baptism, stood on stage in church and delivered testimony and, well, wasn’t that vulnerable enough? What more could be written?
Then I realised, all of last year’s blogs are today my shiny vulnerability medals. Put together they are the sum of my vulnerability double-bluffs. Whilst first pressing ‘publish’ all those months ago scared me and made me vulnerable, I no longer fret about live posts. Partly because I’m supported by my faith in God, and partly because there’s nothing new (yet) to be vulnerable over.
The true test is whether I keep digging into the joy, awe, grace, and all the corresponding frustrations, sadness and loss that a journey of faith delivers. To publish and be vulnerable and admit, you know, I feel like God has let me down today. That the joy is harder to find. That this bible verse is frustrating the *&^% out of me. That the world is making me weep and I don’t know if I can hold on with patience for this second coming. That vivid Old and New Testament miracles are rare nowadays, so faith is a muscle that requires work. It is not always flow and delight and ease. There are plenty of days when we all struggle with grace.
I take heart from the Psalmists who wrestled with God. Forget worship, humility and subjugation when they prayed. Some of the Psalms read like it’s an all-out slanging match after a few too many vodka cruisers. “What are You thinking?” they yell.
Or Jacob, wrestling with God all night (Gen 32:22-32). Whilst an exhausting struggle that left him crippled – ‘he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched’ – I read it and thought: God is the ultimate World Extreme Cagefighter. Just Jacob’s hip? Crippled by one touch? It really could – should – have been a one-sided fight. Yet God saw ‘he could not overpower him.’ He doesn’t want to win us His way, but rather have us win Him, our way.
I suspect God quite enjoys the fights. That my relationship is strengthened with Him when my vulnerability takes shape not just in humility, but in sheer frustration with Him. Just like any friend who is truly invited in to know my heart, God doesn’t want the best bits. It’s my yelling and stamping and vodka cruiser style slanging that God takes heart in. Because then He knows I’m secure with Him. That I let it all hang out. That I am anything but indifferent.
So, even though it’s from behind a keyboard, I will seek to record both the struggles and the joy. I have not yet killed the smart-alec pastor (SAP) off, Dallas style, in a random plot twist. Perhaps there will be guest appearances. The SAP as John Farnham. Or Slim Shady – guess who’s back, back again. God will tell.