I am definitely not a person who wants to be seen, and often I don’t want to be heard. In fact, I’m quite comfortable sitting within the shadows, hanging out in the background, doing the behind-the-scenes work. I’ve never been one who has wanted to be in the spotlight. I’ve never wanted the credit, to be called out publicly, or to put myself out there. I’ve been helping Nate out with the Initiative for a year now, and I’ve only just now started to put my name on things. Originally I had asked Nate not to call me out or give me credit for things because I didn’t feel worthy enough to be recognized. I didn’t feel that I was that important to be recognized. Fear has held me back. Fear that I wasn’t going to be accepted. Fear that I wasn’t good enough. Fear that I was going to mess up, do something wrong. In fact, I didn’t even want to put my name on the bottom of these blog posts, but I kinda had to.
The irony in what I had set out to do, to hide in the background, is that God didn’t call me to be silent. God didn’t call me to be in the background, in the shadows. God called me exactly for that purpose…to be seen and to be heard. And when I say this, I don’t mean in a way that is flashy, or all about myself, or self-centered. What I mean by this is that God has called me to share my story, share my testimony, share my passion. Through my story, through my pain, God is writing my story not so that it can be put on a shelf, but so that it can be taken up and read, and passed along for others to read. When they read my story, they are going to be reading about God. So if I continue to hide in the background, in the shadows, then I am ultimately hiding God, and He recently called me out on that. How can I shine God’s light when I am reluctant to show it?
If it’s one thing that I have learned throughout my recovery journey, it’s that vulnerability begets vulnerability. However, with vulnerability comes risk, and it’s terrifying to overcome that risk. It takes courage to overcome that risk in order to bear our hearts, our truths, our feelings, our story. It takes courage to come face to face with our fears, our denial, and to embrace the painful journey of recovery, of change. It takes vulnerability to stand up and ask for what we need. All too often vulnerability is seen as weakness, portrayed as something in which exposes us to being destroyed. Yet, it’s that same willingness to risk vulnerability that shows our willingness to trust God. To be faithful.
It is through our vulnerabilities that we are saying to God, “Here I am God, and I am trusting you. I am trusting you not to destroy me. I am trusting you to heal whatever inside me is broken, and to heal the pain and the hurt that has built up within these cracked walls. ” You see, when I share, or when I talk, or when I put myself out there, I have no idea what the outcome is going to be. I could say something and knock it out of the park, or I could share something and hear crickets chirping sweetly in the background. Either way, it’s me being vulnerable, continuing to trust the process of recovery. It is through my vulnerability that I am able to explore my darkness, and expose it to the healing power of the light. I cannot heal what I cannot see. And God cannot effectively heal what I refuse to show Him. And others cannot see the light of Christ within me if I remain in the background, in the shadows, unseen.
Armed with that knowledge, I began to step out of my comfort zone and further into the vulnerability zone, quite like I am doing writing this blog post. I think my first step to being more vulnerable began with my trip to the East Coast Summit. There I sat, in a room full of people I don’t know, and all I wanted to do was sit in a corner, away from everyone, yet I found myself at a table pretty close to the front of the room. I sat and listened as I heard my name called out in front of hundreds. Again during that same day, my name was called out and I remember shaking my head in disbelief. I didn’t deserve to have my name mentioned! During the mental health workshop, Nate was talking about a mental health champion and then I guess something came over him and he called me out and drew attention to me, giving me as an example for the other mental health champions who had attended the workshop. I distinctly remember him saying that he was going to be in so much trouble for that… I think that’s the exact moment that it finally hit me. That I couldn’t hide anymore. That I needed to be vulnerable and allow myself to be an example, to allow others to put a name to a face, to allow others to come up and ask me questions. To be vulnerable and lead by example. It’s not just about getting all the credit, it’s about being the hands and feet of Christ. Being available to be used as God needs me to be. (I guess I should also clarify that no, he did not get in trouble for calling me out although the verdict is still out on that. I should probably thank him for doing it.)
I’ve started to put my name on posts that I help out with. I’ve started to receive feedback. I’ve started to receive questions and comments that if I had not put my name out there, people would not know that I am a resource to reach out to. It helps remind Nate that he doesn’t have to do everything alone. That he doesn’t bear the full responsibility. I’ve also started sharing other parts of my story, parts which I’ve kept hidden. Being vulnerable has allowed me to connect with others that I would not have connected with otherwise. My vulnerability allows God to reach that many more. I can only imagine how much more is going to happen with my new-found vulnerability.
I must be vulnerable to ask for what I need. To be able to reach those that God wants to reach through my story. To shine God’s light for others to see. Vulnerability is courage. It takes courage to tell my story with my whole heart.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health X-Factor