“To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you-this openness is the triumph of the child of God over the Pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Spirit.” (Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child).
We lie about our loneliness and our fears.
They are hidden beneath smiles, activity, and bravado. We ignore aches and push down anxieties because we believe the people who present themselves to others without these trappings are more acceptable, desirable, and welcome.
And that’s how the loneliness and fears grow. They lie to us about our worth. Their grip on us tightens and reinforces our distance from those who would really know our hearts.
Those lies battle with the truth that we need others, and the truth that real strength lies not in hiding, but in vulnerability. Life is not found behind closed doors.
In an unguarded moment not long ago, I moved toward a friend. I clung to a glimmer of hope that maybe I wasn’t alone; maybe she felt it too. We began a hesitant companionship, marked with vulnerability hangovers from fear we overshared. Several times one or the other of us nearly canceled a lunch date because the thought of baring ourselves felt too heavy. But slowly, we pushed past our fears toward each other.
After a while, we thought maybe we weren’t alone. Maybe other women wanted, needed, a place to be raw, real, seen, and heard too. So we invited a few. And they came.
Four of us are on a journey of opening to each other. Between work and travel and family, we carve out times together where we simply ask, “how are you?” and make space for more than rote answers.
We have, each of us, wondered if we fit in with the others.
As we open doors into deeper recesses of our hearts, we navigate fear.
We brave disappointing one another with our honest selves.
Together, we invite each other’s childlike selves to show up, share wounds that need care, and receive the tenderness and empathy we need. We share where our hearts are in the process of being awkwardly awake and alive to the mess of life, parenting, friendship, and ministry.
One week, a flurry of text messages appeared about getting together. I chimed in that I couldn’t come, and received no response. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I watched as they excitedly planned time without me.
The loneliness and fear called back to me, telling me how foolish it was to believe I could leave them behind. They whispered of my lack. Told me I was dispensable. Noted how quickly I was passed over.
When our group sat down in our booth at Panera the next week, I swallowed hard and spoke my lies. These friends listened, understood, and opened the door for me to reclaim my space with them.
The triumph of the child over the Pharisee often feels less like victory and more like heart thumping hope as we bring our true selves to each other, vulnerable and exposed.
I need these women, and they need me. While the enemy conspires with a thousand little lies to keep us from being open with others, the Spirit whispers to us that it is worth it, this baring of our souls.
He bids us come with our childlike selves, and believe there is a place for us.
Needing others is not weakness. It is not something to be despised or masked, but rather something to be embraced and celebrated.There is a place for each of us. Open the door.