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Every one of us has at least one chapter in our life story we wouldn’t have included.  We usually edit those parts out if we can get away with it.  We share the honorable parts; we hide the shameful parts of ourselves.

Recently, at a women’s event, I shared my whole story, minus the editing. Also, I’m a pastor’s wife.  Of course, this doesn’t really mean anything except that I’m a sinner, too, just like anyone else, but with expectations.

It wasn’t easy — there was sweat; there was vulnerability, but I walked away from the podium just a little bit freer on the inside.

It was scary; it was hard; it was good.

Here are three things I’ve learned about vulnerability:

1. The chapters we edit out are the ones that connect us to others in important ways.  When we own the darker parts of ourselves, we are astonished to discover fellow strugglers on this weary way in a broken world full of sin, selfishness and Satan. The weaknesses are the parts we love to hide, but the weaknesses are the sources of grace.  As believers, we believe that nothing is wasted and nothing in our lives can separate us from Christ. God uses the dark parts of our stories to shape us, hollow us out to hold more grace. Paul wrote, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

2. To be fully known is to be fully loved. I’m not suggesting we all share our difficult chapters with rooms full of people, but I am suggesting we share them with someone. Preferably a trusted someone, someone safe to receive it. If we are to be rooted and grounded in love, we also need to be known and seen for who we are, the strengths and weaknesses. We know and believe that God sees us, loves us, forgives us, but we also need to be loved by the body of Christ, tangible, physical, balm to our human need for connection. (If your story includes any sexual content, it’s best to share female-to-female and male-to-male. Due to the shame surrounding sexual sin, it’s very important to share it with someone safe.)

3. People prefer vulnerability to perfection. Often we want to appear as though we are strong and have it all together, but this is not necessarily what others want from us. There is a time and a season for everything, and sometimes, others just want to know they aren’t alone. If we’re strong, it will be evident, but our weaknesses are often secrets no one would guess, and we like it that way. But the Bible reminds us to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received. We could help others close their own dark chapters by sharing what we’ve lived and learned—if only to say “You WILL live through this. You WILL smile and laugh again one day.”

Each of has our own story, and when we own all the parts of our story, we own the unique shape of our own soul, crafted by God Himself. Each life is a book with many chapters, and God and I are still writing my story. I can own the shame, the honor, the dark chapters and the bright ones, because none of these define me. My identity is secure in Christ.

After many months of dwelling on these truths, I felt God calling me to share my full testimony, to step out and stand on the waters of truth. Though the waves crash, though my palms sweat, Christ in me is the hope of glory. Because of Him, I can be vulnerable, I can be loved, and I can be flawed and human and imperfect.

Free indeed.