This weekend I spoke at a women’s event. Even though this event was on a busy fall Saturday afternoon, 275 of us managed to be there. Women are my favorite audience. We speak the same language. We get each other. Sometimes when I’m speaking to women, I don’t even have to say much. They already understand. Sometimes I can just say something like, What’s the deal with men? Women will just start laughing as if I’ve said something hilarious.
At this event I spoke for an hour straight. There’s no telling how many hours of prayer, study and preparation I spent getting ready. I don’t know if this is good or bad but when I speak, I bring everything I’ve got to it and lay it out there on the stage. We end up laughing and crying together. I speak of the deepest and truest things I know.
When I finish, the strangest things happen. For a while, I feel like I’m floating. I wonder if that is the prayers of others still holding me afloat. I know I have a circle of women praying for me every time I speak. Then, it feels like everything drains from me. My body usually hurts. I feel it in my feet, my hips, my joints. I’m thirsty for a couple of hours afterward.
I then begin the most useless thing I know. I re-hash the speaking event in my mind. I have a hard time turning it off. This lasts 24 hours or more. The more authentic emotional sharing I do, the more my mind wants to go back over it all. I find myself wondering if I left out something important. Or should I have started with this instead of that? I rewrite portions in my head. This would be a much more helpful feature of my mind if it would only do this before I speak and not after. Clearly I’m not in control.
Then I almost always experience what Brené Brown calls a vulnerability hangover which is that feeling of oversharing all your weakness and pain points with others. I really don’t want to speak or write if I can’t be real. I’m choosing to do it yet there is a cost for being real and I feel it physically, emotionally and spiritually after I speak.
Both our sons played high school football. I used to think football players walked a certain way because they were trying to swagger to be cool. With our sons, I learned that athletes walk the way they do because they are hurting all over. They’ve laid it all out there on the field in each practice and game. I’m not an athlete but I can relate to giving myself fully to something.
On Sunday, I attended an early worship. The stained glass window in the new day’s light was radiating good news all over the place. The sermon was about being real. The pastor reminded us about Jesus when he began to perceive that his life was not going to end well. In the translation that was read, Jesus says I feel like I’m dying. The text describes him as having a soul that was exceedingly sorrowful. Jesus asks his friends for help. They fall asleep on him. Jesus ends up on the ground in prayer, begging that maybe this could go a different way. (Matthew 26:31-44) We see Jesus here as vulnerable, real and messy as he struggles to align himself with what is going to happen. The pastor said, You want to know how to pray? Check this out. Jesus falls on his face before God and lays it all out there. It is not neat or pretty or like any ritual or canned prayer we’ve ever seen. Being real is how you pray.
Before worship I journaled that I was weary and nursing a vulnerability hangover. A few minutes later I read the Jesus Calling devotional like I do every day. It stunned me. Don’t be anxious about the weakness of your body. Instead, view it as the prelude to My infusing energy into your being. (October 20th entry)
Are you a little weary today because of aging, illness, grief, athletics or giving your whole self to something? Are you weary from staying up all night, flat on your face before God? Are you weary because you are human and you struggle and this life is hard?
As I worshipped, the Light of God and the Word of God reminded me that laying it all out there is what we are called to do. God promises to refill us. We are energized by a strength that is not our own.
I can picture Jesus after that long hard night, standing up, waking his friends, wiping his tears. His body probably hurt but his spirit had been strengthened. He headed toward what was next because God’s light and God’s presence had refilled him. Thanks be to God for infusing us with new life over and over again..
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. To see where she is speaking next visit www.drcindyryanblog.com/events. Sign up for her monthly Inner Circle emails at www.drcindyryanblog/circle. The next Inner Circle email will be Cindy’s Top Ten Tips for How to Survive the Holidays. Sign up by October 31 to receive it.
The stained glass window pictured is in Founder’s Chapel at First United Methodist Church of Grapevine. It was given to the church by Drs. Ed and Minnie Lancaster and is called the Resurrection window. Thank you Rev. Travis Franklin for your sermon.