Love and the Risk of Wounds

Recently I gave a talk at the Boston Christian Community, where, during my practicum, I am serving as ministry assistant, titled “Are You My Brother or My Lover? Learning to Love Through the Gospels.” The idea came from my own concerns and questions around love and discernment.

I may walk through life proclaiming that I am striving to love all of Creation, love as God loves us, love as Christ loves us, which is in fact true—I am striving toward this! But when it comes down to my daily interactions with the people around me, at some point, and more honestly, over and over again, I will have to discern the nature of our relationship, regardless of whether either one
of us is single, married, etc. And this is a two-way street. And it can get very confusing. Are you and I friends? Are we going to be lovers? Frustrated and tired by stories of infidelity and breakups, and recognizing my own potential for unfaithfulness, I asked myself, “Can’t we be better at this?” So, I brazenly titled my talk, “Are You My Brother or My Lover?” in order to get the research going.

Turns out I’d gotten a bit ahead of myself. After preparing for and delivering said talk, I realized that before being able to discern, I had to understand more about intimacy and connection, which led me to Brené Brown and her work on vulnerability. Through her research, she has determined that connection is why we are all here, and that shame—if you see this part of me, you won’t connect with me—is what unravels connection. If you let yourself be really seen, you will experience often excruciating vulnerability. But we cannot avoid this vul- nerability, not without becoming numb to the world. It is the “birthplace of pain, but also of joy, creativity, and even love.” Brown’s research redirected my work, and I found myself re-titling my talk, albeit retroactively, “Letting Myself Be Seen: How Vulnerability Can Be a Selfless Act of Love and Faith.”

My learning has since grown into a workshop that I am helping to facilitate in the Boston Christian Community, around “Fear, Vulnerability, and Faith”, and I am grateful to the small group of individuals who have stepped forward to do this work. We are trying something on, bravely experimenting with a conversa- tion-style workshop, a format that can get personal and messy but one that I am excited to try always with the question “Can’t we be better at this?” When vulnerability becomes particularly uncomfortable, the altar is never far, and I turn to it to remember Christ, who, through His vulnerability, His becoming so profoundly wounded, transformed the entire earth. This is the task that is burning within me.

by EMMA HEIRMAN