Every once in a while, I think we are reminded of the person we really are. We see something, we witness some act of courage or faith or beauty, and we remember. We think, Oh, yeah. This is who I am. Take away all the hustle and bustle, all the outside trappings, and this is our real self. This is the person you know you are inside: you just needed a reminder. I had one of those experiences recently. Every Thursday the Texas Tech Voice Area has Voice Area Recital, affectionately known as VAR. For this hour every week, students perform for one another. It's both terrifying and exhilarating, as you fear the judgment of your peers -- a judgment I confess myself to be guilty of -- but you adore the calling you have been given, and you love getting the chance to express it.
During last week's VAR, a friend of mine, Jaque, gave an absolutely stunning performance of a much-beloved aria, "O mio babbino caro" (for non-opera lovers, this is the aria you know, along with "Nessun dorma"). I mean, y'all. It was gorgeous. Jaque has a great voice, but the best part was her performance of it: so still and focused, so touching, so utterly heartfelt. We were spellbound.
I confess to you that in that moment I was sad for myself. I felt a weight upon my own heart. I found myself asking questions to which my heart knew the answers all too well. Why don't I perform like that?
I can. And I have. Marc, our acting coach at CASI, told me, very truly, that I have all the beauty and the story and the expression in my head. I feel music incredibly deeply. That's part of who I am, and Jaque's performance reminded me of that. But I am so afraid of rejection and disapproval and being wrong that I do not allow that side of me to come out.
It affected me so much that I was talking about that sensation with Kaysha, my fight club partner, the next day. I told her I knew I had it in me, but I was so afraid. Why couldn't I let go of the fear of being wrong? She looked straight at me and asked me, "How vulnerable would you say that you are? On a daily basis?"
This is a question with which I've been wrestling lately. I know myself to be honest and open. I don't hide things from people, and I tend to be open about my struggles. I know that I am my honest self around others. But, I told Kaysha, I don't ever feel like I'm giving part of myself away.
She looked at me and said, "Sara, that's what vulnerability is." I cried. I am addicted to the need for others to see me as perfect, as having it all together. I know perfectly well that I'm not perfect, but I cringe at the imagination that others might know it, too. I fear that they will flee from me, that they will find me unlovely and unloveable, that they will desert me. When you live in fear like this, how can vulnerability be possible?
I agreed to start looking for ways to practice vulnerability. Little did I hope that God would answer my prayers so soon, so powerfully, with such soul-wrenching clarity. He has shown me that if I want to be vulnerable, I have to be willing to admit or show my imperfection to other people. I must be open to the fact that I'm not perfect -- and even if other people do desert me for it, I can trust and rest easy in the fact that my Jesus never will.
What does this mean? It means moving toward others instead of cowering in the background, in fear of rejection. There are so many amazing people I want to be friends with! What is keeping me from being friends with them, from moving toward them from my heart? My fear of rejection. It means accepting the fact that though I am being remade day by day, I am not there yet, nor will I be in this lifetime. It means being okay with letting other people know that, hey, I'm not perfect. It means being okay with knowing that myself.
And sometimes, it means talking with other people about the way my heart has been created. About the things that call to my heart. It means dreaming with other people. It means being willing to reveal to others the hidden places of my heart.
It means doing all of this from a place of knowing my safety in Jesus.
I'm really bad at all of these things, you guys. I think learning this is going to be a painful process. But I also think it will be beautiful. You see, for a while I've had this nagging feeling that I don't act like myself around other people. And I think that's because I'm afraid of showing them my quiet little heart, so quiet that sometimes I don't really hear it myself.
Yes, this will be hard. But I know, I know that the freedom is better than feeling like I'm not really living.
I would say to my friends reading this -- the people who know me in real life -- that I promise to try to move toward you from my longing, flawed heart. I will do my best to imperfectly let down my guard to you. For knowing all of you is better than safety. You all are my adventure-companions. You are my people. I want to meet you from the place within me that I know so well, but have always been afraid to live from.
For freedom is better than safety. And Jesus is both.
God help me. I am afraid, but I am hopeful. And I think that's a good place to be.