“And he said to her, “Daughter, thy faith has made thee whole; go in peace” Mark 5:34
It was early morning of my eighth-grade year when I crept out of bed, got dressed, and went downstairs. I quickly fixed a bowl of Corn Pops and sat on the lumpy brown couch. It was rather quiet for a house of six people, with the faint heavy breathing of my stepfather, passed out in an alcoholic stupor and my mother sleeping soundly next to him in their bedroom. I turned on the television, frantically turning the volume down to barely audible but loud enough for me to hear CNN broadcast their half-hour news. As I listened, eating quickly to avoid soggy Corn Pops, I thought about my future. Someday, I would be in a foreign country reporting about a natural disaster or humanitarian aid in war-torn country. Someday, my name would be a byline. Someday, I would be important!
I bounded off to school that day, dreams of being a reporter still in the back of my mind as I met with my counselor to set up my freshman schedule. I was excited, anticipating all the new things I would be learning when I saw what I believed to be a misprint: Freshman English. I mumbled something to my counselor like, “Shouldn’t this read Accelerated English?” I had low Bs in my English class, but still believed that my teacher would recommend me for the advanced English class. My counselor told me to follow up with my teacher. Later that day, I asked my teacher why she hadn’t recommended me for that class. Her words, “Sherry, your writing is not good enough, you lack fundamentals and clarity.” I was stunned, feeling like I had just swallowed a lifetime’s supply of soggy Corn Pops, seeing my dreams of journalism crumble before me.
I did eventually get into an accelerated class as a sophomore in high school, but the sting of the words echoed throughout my life. I quickly changed career goals, believing that I was not cut out for journalism. I felt like an imposter all the way through college, even though I graduated with honors, believing that my writing never measured up. I even stopped journaling for years, fearful that, if I died unexpectedly, others would laugh at my choppy sentences and mixed metaphors. I let the impact of one teacher’s words follow me for decades!
There was some truth about my teacher’s conclusions. My fundamentals were lacking. It’s hard to pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and spelling when your goal in reading is to find the happy ending. I believe the trauma I was feeling at home hindered me from seeing and understanding the beauty of words, and how a correctly chosen word paints a picture. Yes, I was a reader, but reading was a form of escape from hide all the ugly words being spoken over me.
Decades later, I sat at my computer with a need to put my thoughts and voice to paper, or rather, cyberspace. I doubted anyone would want to read my words, confident that it would not come out in clear, well-formed sentences. I wasn’t sure I could paint a picture with words that would resonate with someone or touch their heart. Regardless, I felt a need to put my words out there in the form of a blog. I told myself, and really believed, that this writing might only before me and, if so, that was enough.
Vulnerability is not always about sharing your story. Sometimes, it’s about taking a risk, believing your future can be different than what an eighth-grade teacher did or did not recommend. To be fair, I think she had to draw a line, and, at the time, I didn’t meet the standard. I could argue that maybe, if she had been more compassionate with me and given me some pointers on how to improve my writing, I could have been inspired. But she didn’t, and I gave power to her words for a large portion of my life.
Recently, a friend of mine reminded me of the bravery the woman with the issue of blood. This was a woman who had spent all her money on doctors looking for a cure, to no avail. Additionally, according to Jewish law, she could be punished for being out in a crowd with her blood disorder because she was “unclean”. Yet, she risked her reputation and her future in one moment of brave vulnerability. She had heard the stories about this man called Jesus who had healed others. He was in her city, on her street, and she thought that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she might be healed. I can imagine her in her weakened state, maybe stepping outside for the first time in years. The bright sun glaring in her eyes as she moved towards the crowd. I can imagine her cautious steps as she was jostled in the crowd. Suddenly, there he was, she could see him walking by, and in one desperate motion with every ounce of remaining energy, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment, believing she would be whole.
Jesus responded to this woman by asking who had touched him. The Bible records that he felt virtue flow out of him towards the woman. The Greek word for virtue is “dynamis”, where we get the word dynamite from. The implication was something powerful flowed to the woman, and he told her that her faith had made her whole. Her act of faith, her brave vulnerability, had made her whole. It changed her life, and made her a vibrant, active member of her community. We don’t know the rest of the story, but I can imagine that this woman told others about the goodness of Jesus. She likely reached out to others, sharing with them about her desperate moment and how Jesus responded to her faith.
I am starting my fourth year of blogging this fall. I believe that some of my posts have touched others’ lives. I have found a place where I can clearly paint pictures of the work God is doing in me. I can share how He is making me whole. I can share ideas and thoughts that God has given me. And it started with me being vulnerably brave.
Readers, some of you I know and some of you I don’t. Some of you might be in the middle of your life like I am, and others might be starting out in adulthood. But wherever you are, be vulnerable. Brené Brown said in a TED talk, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Our world, individually and collectively, will only be a better place when we are vulnerably brave!