In this episode, we will be moving into the topic of vulnerability within the rhythm section of our “Marriage as a Love Song” series. This will be the first of a three-part series on vulnerability. We’ll start by defining what vulnerability is, and then provide an overview of spiritual, emotional, and physical/embodied vulnerability. We’ll then dive more in-depth into spiritual vulnerability, and give some examples of how that’s played out in our lives.
009: The Rhythm of Marriage—Vulnerability, Part 01
Truly Equal is a marriage podcast created by Kyle and Christi Playford. Our goal is to talk about marriage from a fresh perspective. We tell stories about our lives, talk about how marriage is like a love song, and give practical solutions to the problems we've encountered.
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As a re-cap, we've been in our "Marriage as a Love Song" series for the past few episodes now. The idea behind the series is that a healthy marriage functions much like a love song. The key components needed to make it work are rhythm, timbre, and melody. Rhythm is the groundwork or underlying component of any song. It's what holds the song together. Likewise, every good marriage must have a foundation it's based in. Timbre is the unique sound of a specific instrument. For example if someone plays a C on both a piano and a guitar, it will sound different on each instrument. In the same way, a marriage is made up of two unique individuals who respond to life differently. And finally, melody is the constant pattern of sound within a song. It's the main tune you hear again and again. In marriage, also, there are patterns and things that are repeated again and again. So far we've been exploring the rhythm section and have touched on the topics of love and commitment. Today, we're moving into the final topic in the rhythm section—vulnerability. C.S. Lewis says it best in the following quote:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." —C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
What is Vulnerability?
Okay, so now that we understand the importance of vulnerability in a marriage, what exactly is it? In Kyle's research for this episode, he looked up a couple definitions:
Google definition: "The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally."
Urban Dictionary definition: "Someone who is completely and rawly open, unguarded with their heart, mind, and soul. It happens when you trust completely. It's being exposed with all of the emotions that make it easy for someone you trust to really do emotional damage or healing. Vulnerability is the surrender of all control and personal power."
Often, in our culture, vulnerability is considered synonymous with pain. However, it also opens the door for healing to take place. It takes a lot of courage and strength to be vulnerable with someone. But if you're in a committed, loving relationship that revolves around trust, vulnerability can add more depth to that relationship.
We're going to break this topic into three parts each focusing on a different aspect of vulnerability. We'll look at spiritual, emotional, and physical or embodied vulnerability. In this episode, we will be focusing on the spiritual side of vulnerability.
Jesus Leads the Way
God, through Jesus, first showed us what vulnerability looks like. By his example, we too can learn how to be vulnerable. Milan and Kay Yerkovich (authors of How We Love) talk about how Jesus demonstrates vulnerability through this passage in Matthew:
"Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, 'Sit here while I go over there to pray.' He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, 'My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" —Matthew 26:36–38, NLT
This passage shows Jesus being vulnerable with three of his closest disciples. He chose to open himself up to the people he trusted most. First, Jesus identifies the emotions he's feeling. Then, he tells his disciples about his stress and pain. He's able to verbalize his feelings—a key component of vulnerability. It's important to note that vulnerability can only happen in relation to other people. You can't be vulnerable alone. Also, a big part of vulnerability deals with feelings—which people can be prone to shy away from. Mr. Roger's put it this way in his testimony before a U.S. Senate committee on May 1, 1969:
"I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health." —Fred Rogers
Oftentimes people don't think they can talk about their feelings. And if they do mention them, they often don't know how to handle them in constructive ways. However, it is possible to learn how to both mention and manage our feelings.
Before we move on to discuss spiritual vulnerability, I outlined our definitions of the three different parts of vulnerability.
Spiritual Vulnerability: Expressing your thoughts and feelings about about your beliefs (especially regarding your doubts and questions).
Emotional Vulnerability: Expressing your feelings through words.
Physical/Embodied Vulnerability: Expressing your feelings through your body.
Spiritual vulnerability is about verbalizing your questions and doubts about your beliefs. This can be directed both to God, and to your spouse about God. For example, Kyle grew up believing that God would send all non-Christians to hell and torment them forever. However, Kyle loved his friends and family members who weren't Christians, so that raised a few questions: "How does this work? Is this really going to happen? How could you do this, God? I feel like it's not fair! God, how could you be loving if this is true?" Those questions in themselves are vulnerable questions—regardless of the answers.
I grew up being taught that women couldn't be leaders in the church. This caused me to question many things: "God, why can't women lead in the church? Does that mean you value women less than men? Does that mean that I'm not as valuable to you? Does that mean my brothers are worth more to you than I am?" Growing up those questions were too vulnerable for me to ask God, but looking back those were the questions in my mind. It's a big deal to articulate with words the questions you have about your beliefs. It makes them real. Oftentimes we believe those questions are not okay to say, think, or feel.
It's important to ask ourselves questions about our beliefs. Big questions. Questions like: "Does God really exist? Is God good? Does God actually love people?" It's not about trying to come up with questions for God so that you can be vulnerable. The questions are already there. It's simply acknowledging those questions and bringing them to God.
Everyone has beliefs—not just Christians. People believe in a variety of religions, they believe in themselves, they believe in science, etc. All of us as humans have these beliefs that we hold on to. We can get very defensive when people attack our beliefs, because they are core to our identity. It feels very personal when people judge us for our beliefs. Therefore, voicing doubts about what we believe can make us feel weak.
However, there is also an opportunity for great healing in spiritual vulnerability. For example, Kyle took a further look into what Christians have believed about hell throughout the centuries. After his research, he came to the conclusion that there are a multitude of positions on what Christians have believed about hell. He realized it's okay to have a different belief about hell than what he was taught growing up, because his former construct wasn't necessarily what all Christians believed. There were other options. God could be different than he had imagined. Through this change in his beliefs, Kyle experienced healing and a deeper relationship with God. Now he believes that God loves and cares about humans much more than he ever could. Vulnerability is hard, but it can also be rewarding. As for me, I now attend a denomination that believes women can be leaders in the church. They believe women were leaders back in the Bible days, and they can be today as well. They interpret the scriptures a differently than how I was taught. This experience has been healing for me as well. I now believe that I am equal with men. God does love me just as much. He doesn't view me as inferior. My opinions and my voice matter. This process of questioning and changing my beliefs has been a very scary process at times, but it's worth it. I've grown a lot.
The Power of Vulnerability — book by Brene Brown
How We Love — marriage books and other resources by Milan and Kay Yerkovich
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