Friday, May 1, 2009

The Grace of Vulnerability

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a time of darkness that I was experiencing and how that has manifested itself in my past. Fortunately, I know enough about myself to realize that I need to seek someone to talk to. If I don't, it eats away at me internally. I become angry and begin to think that nobody cares about me, that nobody notices what I am going through. At its worst, I enter into utter helplessness and despair--not only do I feel that I have no control of my life, but I think about ways to flee from it. The pains of life become too difficult, and I want to put an end to it.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)
In these cases, I know I have to ask for help.

During my second year of the novitiate, I helped out with a high school retreat, and one of the things that I was struck by was the utter helplessness that many teenagers feel these days. So many are on anti-depressants. So many have thought about suicide. So many have no hope. These teenagers only want to feel accepted, to feel loved--often times, they don't feel that. The world sucks, why bother...

Having been down that road, I can easily empathize with those who feel no hope, no reason to live. But, to hear their pain, to see them lose themselves in a flood of tears as they describe their situation, is also very difficult for me. It reminds me too much of that internal pain I experienced, of those memories that I still carry deep within me.

Yet, in the moment of those tears, of finally being able to give voice to what has been pent up for years and years--they begin that long journey towards what they seek for so desperately in their life. They enter into that pilgrimage towards inner peace, to begin the slow work of inner healing. Only in truly opening themselves up, of having the courage to be vulnerable, are they, are we, able to let go of old wounds, or at least lessen the power in which those past experiences have gripped us with, have imprisoned us in helplessness.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail in response to my earlier post. It was that of a mother moved, and concerned, about my words. An anonymous reader that feared the catastrophic damage that I would inflict upon my loved ones if something terrible ever pushed me over the edge. A heart that has endured the most difficult task of making sense of something that seems so utterly senseless--the death of her own son by suicide.

I would never presume, nor could I presently fathom, the deep pain that she has felt.

As a result, I was subsequently touched that she, although we have never met, would be so open and share with me this very difficult experience. In my act of vulnerability, she felt herself invited to be vulnerable with me. Her words were truly gift to me--an act, an image, of God's love extended toward me.

My initial road to healing, indeed, came at a point in my life in which I genuinely felt that I was free enough to be vulnerable, that others gave me attentive ears and truly listened to my pain. I experienced the warm comfort of my peers, the genuine embraces that stemmed from a true understanding of where I was coming from. At this moment of vulnerability, I can honestly say that I experienced and believed, for the first time in my life, the real presence of God at work around me.

We live in a culture, however, in which it is difficult to be vulnerable. Vulnerability and emotions are a sign of weakness. No wonder, then, that so many do not know how to seek help when it is truly needed. "'Be a man; suck it up." How many stories have we heard this past year of fathers taking the lives of their entire family? People do not do this unless they honestly believe this is the only option available.

It is NEVER, EVER, the only option available. Under no circumstances, whatsoever. NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER. It is utterly tragic that human beings can come to this point in their lives to believe this to be the only way.

My experience of a deeply and profoundly loving God stems from that experience of in which I saw a glimpse of what true love-in-action looks like, and how God's love is infinitely more awesome than that pretty awesome experience I had. And, I believe we are meant to be those instruments through which God's glory and infinite love becomes manifest here on earth. We need each other; we need each to be that image of God's love.

So that those who are utterly hopeless may experience the miracle of finding hope. And that no other mother has to pick up the pieces of a life tragically taken away from her. AMDG.


Gannet Girl said...

Ryan, this is beautifully expressed. I'm going to link to this entry in my next one.

Ryan Rallanka, SJ said...

I'm glad to know that you found this entry helpful. Know of my prayers as you continue your journey

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your empathy and message of hope. Personally I take great comfort in John 14.27--'Peace I live with you...'