Love and Vulnerability

We were created to know and be known, to love and be loved. We're all walking around with this deep seeded need to be fully known and through being fully known, to be fully loved. February has become a month focused on love. You walk into any store and are hit with red hearts and chocolates wrapped in shiny cellophane. There are rows and rows of Valentine's cards, stuffed animals, and candies stamped with words of sentiment. Combine that with the heart eye’s emoji and a meme of a cat holding a flower and you can seemingly express your love and affection to anyone in your life without really expressing anything at all – without knowing or being known.  Because to know and be known might mean being rejected, instead of loved.

Because of this fear, we live in a world of false advertising. Just look at Facebook, my profile picture doesn't really look like what I actually look like on most days and next to my perfectly worded status updates, my life looks perfect. I am never required to be myself, never must I express my feelings, never do I need to connect. This is the world we live in. This perpetuates a culture of in-authenticity, I am not fully known, therefore I cannot be fully loved. And we would all like to say that doesn’t exist with our family or spouses because they know our deepest hurts and fears. But, all too frequently, that just isn’t true.

I write this because, in my own life, all too often telling my husband I felt like a fraud or a failure, or even like I was drowning, has been too hard for me – much less have I been able to tell anyone else. Because to admit it might make it real, it might make it true. The fear of being known, even though someone knowing and meeting my need of affirmation in that time was what I needed, is just too scary. Every time in my life that I find myself in a rut, this is the reason. I can’t get out of the rut because I can’t be honest with the people God has surrounded me with to lift me up, to be love. My pride and willpower holds me back and holds me under. In the same way, when my husband is a snappy, frustrated mess, I am too busy being prideful and bitter to see his real need and meet it, to jump into his mess and ask for his vulnerability and trust. Has it always been this way, or has it just gotten worse in recent years? Has affluence and technology only made the path that much harder?

Gary Chapman wrote a book back in 1995 where he laid out five love languages that we each fall into of how we best speak and show love. I am a big fan of this idea, and have never once found someone who didn’t say “yup, I totally fit into one or two of those”. It is genius. The love languages are quality time, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and physical touch. Quality time people needs face to face time doing life with someone where they are able to connect by sharing time, time is love. Acts of service people must be known in such a way that their needs are known and perceived and met, to them this is love. Gifts people long to have their preferences and desires known and understood through the thoughtfulness of gift giving, this is giving love. Words of affirmation people want their talents and qualities noticed, as well as their biggest insecurities. They need to be affirmed and encouraged in order to experience love. Physical tough people need closeness, proximity and embrace to be known and to know through touch, this is how they feel love.

In our world of false advertising and quick fixes, our deepest needs to know and be known, to love and be loved, are not met. How often are we being false, fake and emotionally unavailable lovers? And no, I don’t mean physical lovers, though it does apply. I mean lovers of our families, of our friends, of Christ. How then will we fully give and experience love this February, if we do not break the mold? Would we not rock the worlds of our spouses and children, parents and even co-workers, if we vowed to show love based on the desires of the heart, based on knowing and being known, based on vulnerability? Would we not be blown away if we would only allow ourselves to be loved this way by Christ, in the midst of the real mess we all are?

– Chantel