The Grace of Vulnerability: Chapter 6 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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I did a lot of push-ups in high school.

The push-up is nearly a perfect exercise. It works multiple muscle groups all at the same time. That is why it is included is almost every work out program there is. Even the military focuses heavily on the push-up as the core of their physical fitness assessments.

But that’s not why I did them. I would do push-ups as a teenager until my arms couldn’t move anymore. I would do push-ups sometimes with tears in my eyes–tears that were there when I started and didn’t really go away. I did push-ups because I was afraid.

I was afraid of being too scrawny and small. I was afraid of being ugly. I was afraid of being rejected by girls and of not performing well in football practices. I was afraid of how I looked because maybe, just maybe people would see me for who I truly was.

I still do push-ups today but I’m not trying to impress anyone (except maybe my wife). I do them today more because of my mid-thirties body that is already starting to wear down. Nobody likes the aging process. It does things to your body that you wish you could stop. (Don’t get me started on my hairline or the amount of little white hairs that litter the ground when I get my monthly haircut.)

Reading Lisa’s chapter about “The Grace of Vulnerability” really got me thinking about the way I have viewed and still view my self-image. In this chapter she talks a lot about the way we view our aging bodies and how we cope with illnesses that affect our appearance.

Sharing that little story about push-ups was hard to do. I don’t want people to know that about me. It makes me feel vulnerable.

I can’t imagine being in Lisa’s shoes and having to write about the vulnerability she felt during her breast cancer treatments. I’ve known Lisa for a few years now and that made the details of her experience all the more touching to read. It gives me courage and perspective in the work that I do today.

Nothing, though, was more heartfelt than reading about Lisa’s “Yes Superhero,” Fulton.

I had known a little about Fulton’s story in preparing for the launch of Lisa’s book. I knew it would be touching and heart-wrenching, but I had no idea how much it would impact me. Sitting in my cubicle, reading about that story, I was stunned. I just can’t imagine going through that experience either as a kid or as a parent. He is truly a superhero of YES: physically scarred on the outside but courageous and loving on the inside. Without a doubt, that young man is changing lives.

How is he able to do that? When I was a kid, I was doing push-ups because I was afraid of the way I looked. Fulton isn’t afraid. Fulton isn’t worried about himself, he’s worried about others. We tend to look inward in fear, while Fulton and the many other Superheroes of Yes look outward in love.

I love the way Lisa put it:

“Because making true change means first and foremost admitting the harm that we do to ourselves and then beginning our baby steps along the highway to wholeness. For those of us who have given in to self-harm of any kind, the ability to seek healing is not found in a vacuum. We must bring ourselves to not only whisper our issues in our souls but also to speak them aloud to the God who knows all. (Hendey, pp. 102-103)

Recognizing our own vanity and the self-harm we may have done to ourselves is just the first step. Let’s not be misled to think that step two is inflicting more self-harm through hard work and struggle. We can’t “push-up” our way through fear into love. 

Instead, we need to turn to God in openness and vulnerability and ask him to make us whole. We need to turn to God and embrace his will for our lives. As Lisa tells us, we need to say “yes” to God’s gift of grace. If we do, our life and the lives of those around us will never be the same.  

Thank you, Lisa. 

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. When have you let fear of self-image lead you to try to hide the way you look? 

  2. Who is your “Yes Superhero”?

  3. Where do you feel vulnerable and afraid? What can you ask from God to help you?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 7: The Grace of No. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Jared Dees

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11 Comments

  1. Your honest assessment of your own vulnerability is wonderful, Jared. The time, energy and money we spend trying to ‘build a fortress’ around our vulnerable areas is a distraction from God’s true intentions in blessing us with our weaknesses. Could it be that hiding our weaknesses is like putting the bushel basket over the very light God had intended for us to flood the world with His holy light?

    Once we learn to highlight our areas of vulnerability we realize one of two things: 1) Our perceived vulnerability was not an issue to bother with at all or 2) our vulnerability is actually our strength. But either way, our feelings about our perceived vulnerabilities are distractions that are not from God.

    And once we reach that point, we then have to ask ourselves

    1) How can my time be better spent? Am I saying No to God in some way by tending to this vulnerability? and what Yes am I missing through this distraction?

    2) What is it about my vulnerability that could call others to their own Yes to God? Why has God given me this strength (NOT vulnerability!) and how will He hold me accountable for using this strength?

    Raising Fulton will be a challenge I often feel unable to tackle. So many unknowns still loom in his future. He is still in his cute little boy stage, but before long he will be a teenager, and then a young man, whose presence will make people uncomfortable in his presence. It is a fact. And a challenge to us as Fulton’s parents to guide him early on to see the blessings beneath the scars so when the battle grows in fierceness, he will be well armed.

    As I stayed by Fulton’s side at the hospital those first few days, I assure you there is nothing beautiful about 4 year old boy missing 90% of the skin on his little face. But the message that kept coming to me during that time was “God’s love is sometimes very ugly on the surface.”
    So be it.
    Yes, Lord.
    Thank you.
    Give me strength to endure this love and don’t let me run from it.

    I don’t even want to ponder where we would be had I rebelled and said No instead. I saw many families who embraced No instead of Yes at the hospital. I could not do it.

    Tackling our vulnerabilities early on and turning them into the strengths and sources of sanctification they were intended early on will help us embrace them for what they are – marks of love from a loving God who loves us enough to challenge us to use everything He has given us (and especially our perceived weaknesses!) to say Yes to His plans no matter what.

    • Cassandra, your attitude through all of this has continually been a shining light for me! You are “walking the talk” and continue to be a tremendous “Yes” teacher for me. I keep you and your family in prayer daily… thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. You’re amazing (and so is my favorite superhero!)

    • “God’s love is sometimes very ugly on the surface.
      So be it.
      Yes, Lord.
      Thank you.
      Give me strength to endure this love and don’t let me run from it.”

      Powerful words, Cassandra. Thank you!

  2. Jared, I am finally having a few moments to sit and thank you for this brilliant look at a tremendously challenging chapter. The way you’ve shared here truly touches my heart. In shining some light on our fears and challenges, we give praise to the God who helps us to overcome them. Prayers of gratitude for you today friend!

  3. “ I continue to learn the path of humility by shedding the things I cannot control. In doing this I become more observant of the tiny miracles sprinkled in my path each day.” Lisa your words from this chapter touched me deeply. What beautiful imagery to picture miracles sprinkled before us! Miracles we can either experience or step over! I am soaking up your words as prayer. I am praying for the grace to say yes to love within every miracle sprinkled before me. I want to see them all. The twinkle in the eye of a stranger I meet in the grocery store, the smiles and giggles offered by my family and friends. The gifts and blessing in the work I am given to accomplish,especially mundane task. Cassandra, the sharing of your YES embodies these powerful words of living faith. Reading your story reminds me of Mary’s unconditional yes. The grace of your yes gives witness to your sustained relationship with the giver of life, the maker of miracles beyond control.

  4. So often when I read posts about self-image and vulnerability, the posts are written by females. It’s nice to have a male voice interjected into this conversation. Thanks for sharing, Jared! Gotta go now – off to do some push-ups … 🙂

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