a bit of vulnerability

i’m extremely hesitant to post about this for a few reasons:

1. it’s very personal

2. i don’t want to be an exhibitionist, turning intimate spiritual struggle into a soundbite

3. i don’t want to solicit a bunch of sappy advice

but… i’ve wanted this blog, from the beginning, to be a spiritual discipline where i am honest about stuff going on in my heart and soul. and there’s some accountability in naming this (especially in this public space), that will push me to not sweep it under a rug. so:

sunday night at our home church, the person leading took us through a handful of questions, to which we were supposed to write answers on a piece of paper, then share.

first, she asked us to write down the names of 5 – 10 people we love. that was easy for me. i wrote 7 names: my wife and kids, my parents, a few really close friends. then, she asked us to write one word (or a short phrase) next to each name, describing one thing we love about that person. again, easy. fun.

then we were asked to create a new list: 5 – 10 people who love us. i just wrote the same 7 names from the first question. next, she asked us to write one word (or a short phrase) next to each name to describe what that person might say they love about us. i picked up my pen, thinking, “piece of cake,” or something along those lines. i mean, these are people i really know really love me. i am confident of their love.

but all i could come up with were things i DO for them. i started to panic. i thought harder and harder, trying different people on the list; but the only answers i could come up with were performance based. i took a deep breath, and thought to myself: “ok, think character; think personality; think stuff like that.” but with each person, my mind kept coming up with “they love me because i do x for them.” or worse, “…when i do x for them.”

eventually, i wrote a strong word on my paper to indicate my frustration.

and it only got worse from there. our final question was, “now, write a list of a few things that god would say he loves about you.” i totally panicked. i started crying. all i could think of was performance stuff. we were each given a smooth piece of stone, and told to take a sharpie and write the one thing that was most surprising about what god loves about us. and mine was blank.

now: i’m confident of god’s love. and i’m confident of the love of many people in my life. but in that moment (maybe i was tired? maybe i had gas? maybe i was reflecting on some recent journaling i’d done about childhood stuff?), i was completely stuck, and couldn’t name a single description of why god or those closest to me would love me other than what i DO. and that just sucks. majorly.

so… i’m not going to sweep this under the rug. i need to spend some time, both asking myself why this is, and becoming aware of some answers — and something to write on my little smooth stone.

34 thoughts on “a bit of vulnerability”

  1. thank you for sharing such a personal part of your journey. it’s a comfort to know i am not alone in these feelings. god has been working in me about this same stuff. i will be praying for you as you begin to grasp this unfathomable love gift. blessings…

  2. I have been a longtime reader (sparse commenter) on this blog. This post brought me out of “lurkville” to say thank you. Without saying too much, thank you.

  3. Could it be a love languages kind of thing? Like mine is gift giving, so I feel like I’m loving my wife when I give her stuff, and I feel most loved when she gives me things … but her love langauge is quality time – which I like, but doesn’t do it for me. I guess I’m just saying, when I think of why she should feel loved by me, I come up with a list of things I have given her and things I do for her, whereas if you asked her for a list of things that make her feel loved by me, she would have a completely different list.

    Maybe it’s not that you only love and get loved by the things you do, maybe that’s your value so that’s what jumps out at you. Ask them what makes them feel loved by you and see what answers you get.

    And there ends my sappy advice. : )

  4. Marko- I absolutely believe that you are not alone in that “blank stone” moment. I think that there are many of us (most of us? all of us?) that are operating out of our experiences of moments like this.

    That being said, at some point when the discomfort of the moment is not as fresh, might it be worth a look at how those personal “blank stone” moment impact/ translate into/ motivate our own shared corporate expressions of ministry as “performance stuff?”

  5. Hey dude,
    Thanks for the honesty, and the deep thought about how I would respond to the same questions…

    I have no advice, but would love to hear more about your process as you think through this.

  6. Wow! Really honest Marko! I had a similar problem that I am still trying to overcome two years ago. Someone asked me to write 5 things about myself that would always be true (Not that I am a man, or son or father, or stuff like that, but Part of my identity). I have three now.

    The other was from a book by Julie Cameron called the Artists Way. She wrote the book for blocked artists, but it is pretty good for other things as well. In it, she teaches the exercise of the ten affirmations. That is, write ten affirmations about yourself. I never got the first one out before I started debunking them. It was (is) a very big stronghold for be in self condemnation.

    Anyway, please share your progress later. I would be interested.

  7. thanks for putting this out there. sounds pretty familiar.

    may God speak in words and ways you can hear and understand.

  8. This is a problem I’m having too. I keep putting MY value in things such as performance, or accomplishments, or salary, rather than Christ. Bottom line I’m trying to grasp (although I still can’t), my value is in what Christ has done… I mean he loves me for me… right?

    This gets me into this spiral of thinking like, why do I put so much value on the things I do? Is that what we teach our kids in school? Even worse, do we teach students at church that we are valued by something else other than Christ? (gifts, talents, abilities, accomplishments)? Do we model that as leaders?

  9. i am praying right now that God will reveal His love for you in His Way and in His Time so that you will know that you know

  10. Wow, thanks for being vulnerable. That sounds similar to what I was going through when my husband and I were first engaged. I focused so much on what I could do for him, and lost sight of the fact that he fell in love with who I was. Fortunately, God gave him some insight into what I was doing and he really helped affirm me and walk me through working that out with him and with God. I pray that God will speak to your heart on this.

  11. there is no greater gift in my ming than to be vulnerable

    “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

    Madeleine L’Engle

  12. First of all, thank you for not confessing that you were cheating on your wife or addicted to porn. I always find that level of sharing uncomfortable. My rock would also be blank. So many things people like about me just covers what I truly am. I know God wouldn’t fall for any of that stuff, leaving weakness and works. So, I’m with you.

  13. ‘preciate your transparency, and praying for you as you work this out for yourself. as i read what you wrote, it occurred to me that on some level we realize that people love us for who we are, but the problem comes in when we associate the ways we show who we are with just who we are. in other words, we may believe people love us because of our sincerity, but instead of thinking about that trait, we think about the things we do to show our sincerity, or the things we do that make people aware that we’re the sincere person they know and love, and when we look at it that way, it becomes performance based.

    hopefully that didn’t sound like too big a load of crap. that was the best way i cold articulate it for now…

  14. Thanks for sharing the inner most part of your soul. A Spiritual drought can be a horrifing thing when it sneeks up on you. You’re in my prayers and know that even though your rock is blank, God can see and loves what is written on your heart.

  15. As you say, if you’re after a reason for God to love you for what you do, you’re going to fail. But if you’re after a reason for God to love you for who you are, I’m pretty certain you’re going to fail too. He loves you because he loves you. It seems to be me that any attempt to find a reason for God to love us that isn’t Himself makes much of us and little of Him.

    “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy”

  16. Sorry, above, came across harsher than it meant to. I’ve struggled for ages with the idea that God must love me for a reason that is found in me, but I’m not sure that’s anything other than idolatry of myself. God loves me because of His Son, and in that is my salvation.

  17. I thought about sticking in a couple joke sappy, formulaic advice comments here like the ones I’ve been getting a lot lately, but decided not to. :)
    Thanks for your vulnerability and honesty. Stein Auf!

  18. I agree with what Mark said about 2 posts up…

    He simply loves you. He chooses you. It’s the discomfort of grace and it’s what makes it difficult for us to understand grace. But we got it as kids. No kid doubts they are loved (or is short of reasons why) until we/they/parents/the world/satan starts beating them up (emotional, physically, spiritually…) and convinces them different. God simply chooses to love us. So, hopefully, do our spouses/family/friends.

    Otherwise we in trouble if we have a stroke that changes our personality or an accident that disables us or we grow old and look different or we get fired from the job that defined us for so long or we fail morally.

    If love is dependant upon anything, even our personality, we in big trouble the minute any little thing changes.

    But if my friends love me no matter what, they will never abandon me…

    If my parents love me no matter what, they will always stand by me…

    If my spouse love me simply because she (in my case) said “I do”, I don’t have to fear the day she’ll say “I don’t”

    And because God chose to love me when I was still His enemy, my rock can be blank or my rock can have just about any word on it or my rock can simply say “Grace”

    I guess more than a response to marko, the above is simply my own rock.

    Thanks marko for bringing up the subject

  19. Pingback: ysmarko
  20. God I give you permission to rebuild my life and personality based upon your love. (From John Eldredge)

  21. I grew up in a family where love was defined by what you did or didn’t do for a person. We all united when a crisis would hit our family. So, we looked forward to crisis moments – utterly not fun.

    In college, a sage professor walked us through the Romans verse where it says “while we were still His enemies, Christ died for us…”. At that moment, I truly understood God’s love for me is based on God and not me.

    I still have had years of wading through the “perfomance love” of growing up and still fall back on that when I’m serving others, my husband, teens, etc.

    But, the Truth God loves me because of God and not me, is liberating and beyond my puny brain comprehension.

    Thanks for sharing! May all my brothers and sisters in Christ be edified by this adventure of your heart!

  22. One of the hardest struggles I have is to figure out why I am loved… By God, and by others… Perhaps as I strive toward being humble before God and others, and getting ego out of the way it’s a side effect… I don’t know… All I know is that the hardest person to love in my life is me… The hardest person to show grace to is me… Maybe because I know myself so well.
    I find God’s love so amazing because he knows me better than I know myself, and still He loves me!
    P.S. Food for thought… Are we defined by our Gifts? Our Passions? Our Talents? How does God define us? And interestingly these are things that He gives us…

  23. You are a treasure in a jar of clay. Quit thinking about the beauty or the worthiness of the jar. Throw yourself before the Lord, breaking the jar. Then open your heart and allow Him to show you the treasure you are to Him. It will be enough to cover a mountain of stones.

  24. dude, thanks for being honest. It reminds me of the sermon illustration i’m using from Jeanne Stevens (you know her right?????ha??) book Soul School abou the 3 PPP addictions (pg.62)
    Blessings as we both go through this struggle.

  25. As others have commented, God’s love is never about me–only about him. The original question (“What does God (or others) love *about* you?”) is in a way flawed. Once we include that word “about”, it does indeed make it about us. So the question was an (inadvertent) setup tending toward a performance-based answer. And the answer to “Why does God love me” must always be “Because he is who he is”. Thanks, MarkO, for drawing out a bunch of us lurkers.

  26. Thanks for sharing this. I stopped doing anything with YS a long time ago after participating in several National Conf’s and never hearing anything vulnerable from any leaders – it was as if everyone was saying, (unintentionally I’m sure)”Hey, I’m perfect. I never have any struggles.” This is the first time I have heard anyone closely associated with YS say anything like this. Thanks.

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