I’ve had vulnerability on the brain since our church’s Women’s Retreat a couple of weeks ago. My friend Christie opened up the weekend with a great talk on the subject. She told a story about a three-year-old girl she saw at the store with her mom. After repeatedly trying to get her mom’s attention, this little girl proceeded to start singing and dancing in the middle of the aisle. Christie watched her and was struck by the girl’s vulnerability. This little girl didn’t care who saw or heard her. She had a song to sing so she sang it. She felt like dancing so she danced. Christie asked us when we stopped being the person God intended us to be and started trying to be who we thought everyone wanted us to be.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that question.
I remember when I was made to feel ashamed of the way I run. I was in high school, and a girl on my softball team told me I ran like I had something stuck up my butt. You don’t bounce back easily from a comment like that. And besides, how do you change something as natural as the way you run? It wasn’t long after that comment that I quit sports. Not solely based on her comment, but I was certainly self-conscious about it for the first time. I had played sports for 13 years by that point, but I was done. When I was in college I ventured out to play again with some women from my church. It was incredibly fun. I probably ran exactly the same way but I didn’t care. That is, until my (now) husband mentioned my “odd” running style to me. He didn’t yet know my back story, so he had no idea how his statement would affect me.
I stopped playing summer ball when I changed churches. I started having kids and exercise of any form became a thing of the past. I grew soft, but I was okay with being soft for my babies. After I had my first child I had a newfound respect and awe for my body and all that it was capable of. I had birthed a child! I had a bit of an “I am woman, hear me roar” moment, I tell you. Though my body had changed significantly, I remember just being so overwhelmed by how amazing it was. I wore sleeveless shirts for the first time in my married life. I felt anything but vulnerable about my body. I felt strong and confident.
I’ll be 33 next week and I can already tell my metabolism is changing. What I used to be able to get away with, I no longer can. I gained 20 pounds last year and that’s hard to face. Vulnerability means I wore short sleeve shirts over the weekend and tried not to think about my unshapely arms. It means I’m trying to remember my friend Abby’s statement that “running 6 miles and having a tighter butt won’t make me less broken.” It means playing tag with my kids while we’re at the crowded playground and not caring about who is seeing me run and what they might be thinking. It means thanking God that I can walk, run, jump, bend over without pain, pick up my kids, climb mountains, throw a ball, shoot a three-pointer, and a myriad of other things that this amazing body can still do. It means remembering that no one else is thinking about me and judging me nearly as much as I think they are. It means trusting Anne Lamott when she says I’ll regret not walking on the beach because I feared my thighs were too jiggly.
Vulnerability means a lot more than this, but I’m seeing that it can be a part of everything we do, including what shirt we choose to wear.