Summer Intern Reflection Week (Day 5)
Freedom to Love
Katherine Taylor, University of Denver
When I tell people about my internship at Dry Bones, there’s a normal slew of questions that are asked. How have you changed people? Who have you talked to? What has made the biggest impact on your life? What have you learned?
I have short answers that are truthful and give people some closure. But my thoughts are continuing to whirr like some archaic computer. Emotions and facts mix into a colorful blur, like a child’s messy finger painting. I have learned to embrace this disarray as a crucial part of my journey this summer.
The finger painting began a little over a year ago. I got the opportunity to study abroad from July to December of 2012 in Viña Del Mar, Chile. While there, I learned more about vulnerability than I ever had before. I thought I was courageous until I was forced to speak another language everyday in order to survive. Coming back to the United States, my newfound openness continued to help me view my life at university with new eyes. I realized how many figurative walls I built to keep people out of my messy self. As these walls started to break down, relationships began to grow. Light seeped into the darkness.
When I started the Dry Bones internship, I had no clue how it would fit into this lesson in vulnerability. I knew He wanted me at Dry Bones. I just wasn’t sure why. Little did I know, the internship would fit perfectly with the theme of my life this past year.
According to dictionary.com, the latin root of the word vulnerable is “vulnera” meaning, “To wound.” When we expose our cluttered, unpleasant selves to other people, we open ourselves up to possibly being wounded. This is a frightening experience for us. This leads to many people never revealing even a portion of their true self. As I began to interact with my new friends living on the streets, I held back during the first few interactions. I believed that this internship would teach me some, but that I would educate more. I wouldn’t allow myself to get hurt because I was simply helping the street kids. They didn’t need to know anything about my muddled life. In reality, my new friends have taught me more than I could have ever imagined about the freedom and courage of vulnerable love.
After a few weeks, I found myself falling in love with the quirks of my new friends; the tattoos, the smiles with no teeth, and the way that some of them hug and never want to let go. They demonstrate pure, uninhibited honesty. I found myself at a turning point. Do I expose myself to possible hurt when my new friend disappears one day and never comes back? Or do I quickly build a giant wall to protect myself from falling completely?
God pushed me towards love.
This decision lead to some amazing moments of joy and pain. When one of my friends described to me her lack of self-esteem because no man ever truly loved her, my heart broke. When another friend told me there was no hope for him because he had “pissed off God,” my heart shattered. I started to ask God why He would let these people suffer. “Why am I so blessed and they are not Lord? How do I make even the slightest difference in their suffering?” And the most difficult one of all, “Why are You letting me get hurt by this?”
God revealed His intentions in His subtle way. Through teaching times with staff, sermons at my church, and conversations with friends, God gave me some assistance.
Psalm 46:1-4 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
When we have the power of Christ within us, there is no room for fear. It’s like the song, “Whom Shall I Fear,” by Chris Tomlin:
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
Whom shall I fear?
I always have the God of Wonders to run to when I am scared or hurting. When I feel like rebuilding the walls around my heart, God is there pushing me to remain vulnerable. My new friend Kathy Escobar writes about ordinary courage that leads to vulnerability on her blog. She writes that ordinary courage “…leads to wholehearted living which leads to real human connection and a lot of other good stuff like love and kindness and grace.”
I thought this summer would teach me how to talk to people. This summer has actually given me new freedom to be vulnerable and exposed. I’ve found freedom to hurt for and with my friends. I’ve discovered freedom to forgive and to “love my neighbor as myself.” I’ve begun trying to live with “ordinary courage.” But most importantly, this summer has reminded me of the solid rock that is our God.
Through Him I have the liberty to share my entire messy self with people, my heart breaking along the way. I can do this because I know that He will be there to take care of me as I continue to experience all of the beautiful consequences of vulnerability.