We discussed a video this morning in church that helped me focus on what it is I wanted this post to say. It is a TED talk given by Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability. It is 20 minutes long. If you don’t watch it right away, do yourself a favor and watch it another time.
Of course, one of the things that struck me first was that in trying to decide how she was to be described to potential audiences, the event planner wanted to call her a Storyteller. I believe that is an excellent description of what she does. The power of story is a critical tool for whatever you wish to achieve. Her realization that perhaps “stories are just data with a soul” allowed the researcher in her to believe you could have both things when you use story to convey your message.
This brings to mind what I began writing about in this post. It was inspired by a sermon by Alistair Begg called, “Bloom Where You are Planted.”
He discusses 1 Corinthians 7:17-21. In this section Paul takes on two topics that were very controversial and probably lead to some uncivil debate. You know, like some topics we try to discuss in present times. The overarching issue discussed is “status.”
We all would agree that we want harmony with one another. Songs are written, poems are composed, books explain, and speeches are given that point to our need for harmony. However, there are barriers to achieving said harmony. God is able to overcome barriers as He works in the heart of everyone of his children. Sort of like “restoring honor starts here”…with me. Alistair says:
“God is able to overcome barriers as He works in the heart of both Jew and Gentile. He doesn’t need our help in trying to sort it out. God does not desire that amazing, sought after cultural demise of ethnicity of that which He established in a world for His own sovereign purpose in the variegation of humanity. And it is a dead end street to try to bring about that reconciliation from the outside in. And you see it is only in the Church…that there is any hope in our culture for that harmony for which men and women long….longing that we may all be one, but on the basis of what?”
We cannot use the world’s agenda to make the changes that only God can create, but accepting this does not introduce the chaos of having everyone conform to arbitrary external standards. Alistair explains:
“You ought to retain the place in this life that the Lord has assigned to you…God can address the issue of race. God can address the issue of status. God can address the issue of education. It’s not dealt with by some kind of pseudo-communism. You cannot do that. It doesn’t work. You can’t make everybody the same. God never intended it to be so.
I think the bottom line for Paul was that the goal is not to change your external circumstances as much as it is to allow God to change the attitude of your heart. Christ came to change the hearts of individuals, not to change them into “discontented revolutionaries.” He came to change their hearts….one at a time…where they were. THIS is the way Jesus wished to render religious and social barriers null and void.
We, as Christians, need to not look to changing external circumstances first, but to the power of the Gospel to change hearts and lives. So, we bloom where we are planted because God assigned us our place and there is something that we are to do that is something that only we can do. That changing of our hearts gives us connections to God and to each other.
With regard to the connection we all need with others, Brene says in her talk that she came upon an obstacle to that connection:
” And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” – which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen…..”
” There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it.”
When talking about those people who seemed to believe they were worthy of connection Brene goes on to say:
“The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating – as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”
I believe being able to be vulnerable in order to travel into places where uncivil debate lives is important. That is why I write this blog. It is uncomfortable sometimes, but I am willing to speak about issues in an environment where debate is many times not debate so much as it is a shouting match with insults hurled at opponents with abandon. When I am there I try my best to attend to the attitude of my heart and I believe that my faith in God is the only thing that helps me speak the Truth in Love…as well as embrace that vulnerability that is sometimes so very difficult.