“There is no Saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” – Saint Augustine
What a powerful statement. Before beginning this piece, I was struggling to find the right words that would convey the idea that despite the wounds from sin brought forth from our broken human nature, Christ still calls us each day to strive for the highest degree of holiness on this earth—sainthood.
At a loss for words, the Holy Spirit dropped this profound quote from Saint Augustine into my social media feed on August 28, the date of his memorial in the Church. It struck me immediately, to the point of head-shaking at God’s wittiness with directly-indirectly answering my prayers, and from there I knew this piece on vulnerability had to be rooted in his wise words. This writing seeks to serve as a glimpse into part of my own personal testimony this past year and to emphasize the vitality of vulnerability throughout it all.
Friends that know me well today always joke that I am “the queen of vulnerability” and am always trying to encourage it in our community, but truthfully speaking, this is a recent development. Due to a past filled with distorted love and toxic friendships, my ability to be vulnerable with myself, others and most importantly Christ, was temporarily destroyed.
I assumed the role of a “super easy-going” individual, which in reality was a role of complacency brimming with extreme cognitive dissonance. I lost the courage to voice the beliefs of my faith, my true feelings, my disagreements. Feeling after feeling after feeling got thrown into the rapidly filling bottled-up container that was my head.
When there was simply no more room to hide my bottled-up feelings, the daily prayer that came straight from my innermost head and heart was, “Lord, there’s got to be more than this.”
Around the time that prayer began to emerge was the time I gave the Lord my first whole-hearted “yes” in a while. Next thing you know, I’m sitting at a table half-anxiously painting with watercolors while having a meeting to talk about an upcoming women’s Bible study that I committed to. For some reason, God willed it for me to be the only woman to show up to the meeting, leaving room for a potentially vulnerable conversation between me and the missionary leading the study.
We small-talked and laughed about some silly little things until a tough yet simple question arose: “So Lucy, what do you think the Lord desires for you to receive from this study?” Instantly, I internally panicked. It felt like God was bombarding my brain with a million promptings to bring my sins to light, talk about the struggles I had been bottling up for months, and to fully follow him, but I choked. If I recall correctly, I went mute for a couple minutes and gave some sort of vague answer that sort of covered the promptings God placed in my head. I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable yet.
This past year, however, I’ve rediscovered the most beautiful thing about Christ’s love for us: he knows our hearts so well and is always gentle with them. Ever since joining the women’s Bible study last year, Christ gave me people to meet me where I was spiritually, and walk with me in the journey of giving my life fully to him. The spirited woman that dared to invite me into a study blossomed into my first truly authentic, virtuous friend.
That friendship has taught me many beautiful lessons along the way thus far, and shown me the value in being vulnerable with ourselves, others and the Lord above all. Christ calls us to pursue an intimate relationship with him, and to do so we must be vulnerable with him.
The devil will try to make us feel as if we have to hide our thoughts, feelings and sins, but Christ calls us to bring them all into the light, waiting for us to receive him with open arms so that he may pour out his limitless love and mercy.
When we give the Lord all we are—sins, failures and imperfections included, it opens the door to letting him heal all of the pain and woundedness they have created within us. We’re not destined to take on this world alone, bottling up our struggles, sins, wounds and shame, but to invite Christ into it and to walk with us through it all.
Working on our ability to be vulnerable with the Lord enables us to access a kind of healing and peace that is only possible to attain through an intimate relationship with him. Once we’ve been vulnerable with the Lord and aren’t ruled by our sins and wounds, we have the strength to be more vulnerable with others, especially in our testimonies as Catholics.
Marker 2.3 states, “Personal testimony has an indispensable role in evangelization. Testimony has a unique power to touch hearts, since it is almost impossible to ignore the witness of someone who has encountered Jesus personally and whose life has been transformed by him.”
Through a virtuous friendship challenging me to grow in vulnerability with the Lord, I now have the grace and the peace to be vulnerable in sharing my testimony with others today. By doing so, I pray that I may be a reflection of the product of God’s mercy and love for others, inspiring them to seek authentic friendship, receive the Lord’s love and mercy through intimate relationship and to be vulnerable with Christ and others in their daily lives.
Be gentle with our hearts O Lord. Help us to run to you with open arms, willing to receive your abundant love and mercy. Give us the courage to strive for Sainthood and to be an open, vulnerable witness for others. St. Augustine, pray for us. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.