What Scares Me about being Vulnerable

Have you ever woken your kids up by turning on the light in their room?

It’s kinda funny isn’t it?!

They immediately make a face and pull the covers over their head moaning, “MOM, turn the light offfff!!”

That’s what I thought of yesterday at church when the Pastor spoke on accountability. He said being in an accountable relationship means being honest, vulnerable, available and teachable.

It caused me to reflect. The times I’ve been most vulnerable and honest are also the times I have been most wounded by those I called my friends. As I look back at those times, that “rejection” has caused me to temper how vulnerable and honest I am.

It has made me pull back a little, guard more carefully what I share or what I do in front of certain people – because I don’t like how a smack across the face feels.

My human nature wants to avoid the action that produces the pain. Understandable right?

But as the Pastor reminded me, God called and designed me to live in authentic, accountable relationship with others. When I don’t, something in me shrivels up. My light is dampened a bit.

Here’s what I’ve found that I’m wrestling with: When I am vulnerable and share an inward struggle, like I did in my book, it’s like I’m turning a light on in the dark areas of my life.

And that light touches the person I’m talking to, exposing something in their heart. If the person I’m sharing with doesn’t like the light, they are going to react like my kids do when I wake them up early in the morning.

Spiritually they make a face and pull the covers over their head moaning, “Turn the light off! I know I need to get up, but I don’t want to! You have no right to come in my room, turn my light on and tell me what to do! You’re not the master of me!”

That’s been my experience being vulnerable with people.

And I confess, I’ve let that reaction keep me from fulfilling this God-given mission of living authentically with others.

I have a fear of being misunderstood. So when someone metaphorically turns the light off in my face, I think they just don’t understand what I mean. So I recraft my message to better fit their perspective. But that usually just makes it worse!

The Lord is showing me, it’s not my job to make people understand what I do. Being misunderstood comes with following Jesus.

This past week I read Matthew 16:21-28 and I see Jesus being misunderstood. In fact, I’ve misunderstood this passage for years.

Jesus has just told His disciples that He was going to suffer and die at the hands of the chief priests and on the third day be raised to life (Don’t you love how the wording there suggests someone else doing the raising?!).

Anyway, Peter was appalled! He took Jesus aside and tried to set Him straight. Tried to hold Him accountable! He said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus immediately responded, “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus continued to all of His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

I’ve often confused the words deny himself with self denial. But they’re very different. Self denial produces a self-martyrdom, self-sacrificing mentality. How I should fast more, serve more and not do certain things. It looks spiritual on the outside but is full of pride at what I can abstain from and how strong my will-power is.

Jesus just demonstrated in this passage what denying Himself looks like. The cross embodied the very mission and purpose Jesus came to fulfill. Since Jesus was fully man, He also was susceptible to temptation and this would have been one at the highest degree.

This temptation traces back to His hair-raising encounter with Satan Himself at the beginning of His ministry. A chance NOT to go through the suffering and pain and still have a place of power.

But that wasn’t the plan. That wasn’t His calling.

And Jesus denied Himself – denied the right to call His own shots – and instead humbled Himself to go through with the Plan. This denying of self left Peter and the other disciples baffled. They misunderstood why. And Jesus left them to figure it out in their own time.

As a Christ follower, I am struggling to accept this fact. To deny myself means to live my life in fellowship with other people, to write my journey of what God is teaching me, regardless of the misconceptions that follow.

Will you hold me accountable to that?

By the way – that beautiful piece of art at the beginning, well it was from my Momma! She has been creating this series called “Beloved Vessels with Feet of Clay” and this one is called Vulnerable.


Isn’t it beautiful? Here’s some background in her purpose for choosing the form and style she did:

The form is open suggesting vulnerability. I chose autumn colors, with that idea of swirling winds when something (like winter!) maybe approaching. The edges are unfinished and uneven. There are holes and gaps. Some have been patched with delicate rather than solid weaving to represent wounds that are not (and may never be) completely healed. But it also has beads adorning it to suggest how it is carefully and lovingly made and valued and, well… beautiful.   🙂
You can find more of this series on her website deborahkuster.com.

6 thoughts on “What Scares Me about being Vulnerable

  1. Jody says:

    How timely. I was just sharing w my sister our need to share our brokenness with each other. It is only Satan who plants doubt and uses our vulnerability against us. When we take our focus off of what man thinks and realign our sights on the Lord, we can be fearless.


  2. Deborah Kuster says:

    Thank you dear Julie. Denying ourselves and taking up our cross and “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) are like sister verses to me in how we can misunderstand them. I’m learning that the working out is allowing the Spirit of salvation within me to be manifested or revealed through me. And missing out on that kind of “working out” is all that I need to fear and tremble. (as you and Jody noted) Then the next verse, Phil. 2:13 which can seem to be a contradiction of vs 12, instead makes sense–“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
    May we encourage one another.

    (How honored I am for you to think of and picture my vessel here.)


  3. Emily says:

    Julie, thank you so much for sharing your heart on this topic! Being vulnerable and having conflict with others is my deepest fear. It makes me uncomfortable and even when it turns out ok in the end, it still makes me want to hide. But the beautiful fruit that comes from vulnerability in relationships is amazing and God is showing me that too. Thanks for helping me see that I’m not alone.


    • juliesteck says:

      Hi Emily, I’m so thankful for your comment. No you are not alone. Being vulnerable is hard, but I’m learning that shouldn’t keep me – us from doing it! God often asks us to do hard things and He is right there with us to encourage us. I pray you continue to see the fruit of being vulnerable.


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