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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Life Forces Us To Be Vulnerable

What the truly vulnerable might be heard to say:
Why do you stare?
Why don’t you care?
Can’t you respect vulnerability
When you see it?
Help me dare,
Show you care,
Dignify me wherever I sit.
Vulnerability is everywhere – it’s in every single one of us, if we are honest. We are mortal and fatally flawed from an existential-eternal viewpoint.
But there are some, indeed many, in vary circumstances and situations, who are especially vulnerable. Just one month ago, if we bookend the month of July 2014, we received news that would give us a special insight into a hardly-to-be-predicted condition our unborn was in. Suddenly, as we left a medical clinic chocking back tears, we were joined to the ranks of the imminently vulnerable. Even our then fifteen month old son detected things were awry.
To be vulnerable opens our eyes to others who are vulnerable.
It’s a humbling place to be. Backwashed into a corner and reeling with bad news, there is the shock and weight of it all, but then there’s the waiting, the uncertainty, the wondering for what might be.
Being vulnerable can make us so much more open to the vulnerable around us. Such vulnerability, when shared openly, forges the seamless flow of relational connectedness, where love surges like a torrent of wellbeing in the lives of those who partake. God is in that.
When life forces us to be vulnerable, we have a choice; rail against the injustice of it or let it take us away – by faith – into the arms of trust – to hope in the invisible; that things will be okay. What do we choose?
Then there are those events in life that castigate us so terribly against the offshore reef we lay there strewn and at the fundamental mercy of the elements. In some ways (not all) this can be a blessing in disguise; to be broken.
It’s a Christian theology that I have experienced directly as a man of a failed marriage – to lose everything that meant most to me. There was no option, it seemed in the day, but to run home to God.
The current season’s decision is easy. Peace that transcends my own understanding is mine, though I’m still momentarily and most completely vulnerable – my family has been struck.
Yet, by faith, we hold out to others, the knowledge that God can make good out of any and every situation. So, we trust. We praise God for new friends; wise people who have been so vulnerable, yet strong, for some such time. They inspire me. They are the true heroes of this life.
The privilege of vulnerability is not to feel unsafe, but to know that others are unsafe and together we may love one another without limits.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pain, Suffering, and the Broken Human Condition

Pain and suffering are relative. As REM sang, Everybody Hurts. It helps if we think of ourselves having more in common in these terms than we have differences.
The human conundrum is literally the broken human condition – the ravages of the sinful nature, if you’re a Christian – and just our fallibility, if you’re not.
Pain swarms in many different ways over the lifespan. Suffering is the generalised trauma that engages us all uniquely.
It isn’t much good to anyone to feel guilty for not having suffered enough. Or, for that matter, it doesn’t help to feel guilty that our own prospects or experience of suffering makes it uncomfortable for others to be around us.
But it is understandable in a highly relational life to feel different or inferior to others in certain ways at times. We are constantly comparing, if not consciously, unconsciously. Good signs of maturity are that we would be a threat to nobody and we wouldn’t be threatened by anyone. But none of us will attain anything like perfection in the maturity stakes.
It is normal to experience pain and to suffer.
Whilst some might seem to suffer more than others, much pain is relative, and it’s not as if there are massive divides of experience regarding suffering if we limit our view to a particular culture.
The human experience – the conglomeration of thoughts and feelings of vulnerability, shame, and need of love and acceptance – is inherently common. There are some regional differences; cultural disparities that set us apart, but not so much from our peers.
And our responses to pain and suffering are remarkably similar, even if we take into account wide-ranging moralities. Whilst empathy, as an attribute of personhood, varies a great deal, responses to grief and loss, for instance, are more humanly predictable, except for in the truly pathological person, the narcissist, etc.
When it comes to pain and suffering we have an opportunity; to allow pain and suffering to permeate our experience of living. Not so we are heard whinging and complaining, but that our grief is approachable and that people know it’s not off limits. We need to be free to talk about it, listen to people genuinely, and to allow pain and suffering the latitude of a voice.
Pain and suffering are common to the human experience. Yet, our experiences of pain and suffering are also unique. Both are true. Pain and suffering are sacred, and these experiences are to be wholly respected. This is how we dignify people. No life is a perfect life, yet no life is abysmal.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What to Think About When You’re About to Give Up

Spiritual experiences prove that God is real. One recent experience of surreal delight – even in the midst of a chaotically incomprehensible life – as a very personal experience of God’s Presence and Power – threw me into a fit of laughter. Suddenly I was laughing in a different voice, a distinctly higher tone, than ever before. I was driving so I couldn’t tell, but my facial muscles also contorted in a new way. Then, just as suddenly, I was slapped with gratitude impact because of some brand new friendships I’d made – I’d been embraced. I was praying immediately. Then I found myself, just as quickly, laughing in this peculiar way again. Such laughter was zero percent contrived. I couldn’t have held it back if I tried to.
There were two great and competing pressures on me at that particular moment; separate reasons of sufficient magnitude that brought me to the end of myself.
In weakness there is strength if we detect our weakness and succumb humbly before God. There is no sense in continuing to fight the purposes of God when to work with is to taste rest. To work with is to run with the grain. To work with is the grace of God.
There are some certain realities that leave us reeling in a state of rollicking normalcy. Such moments of truth would rock us to the core if we weren’t so locked into the Lord and the Strength of his Spirit.
This explains my laughter as I reflect: all I could do was hold on for dear life and keep stepping as if God would continue putting ground beneath my feet.
This explains my tears as I prayed: there is such a wonder in how God can transform an otherwise listless morning into a timeless classic of personal experience.
Our thoughts have the power to transform our perspective, so we might transcend our struggles.
One thought can change the game. One thought based in true belief. One thought of praise in the darkness. One thought of regal grateful fortitude in the quicksand of despair.
Thinking can transform the impossible into a point-by-point analysis on how to solve a problem. (We make so many possibilities into impossibilities.)
What goes on within us in a pressurised moment is either hope or despair. Our attitude is everything. When we might choose hope, why would despair even be a viable option?
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hope In the Brokenness of Breakdown

Sleep deprivation contributed more to my one and only complete mental breakdown than anything else. But without the catalyst of a failed marriage, a wife who no longer wanted me, the sleep deprivation would have been easy to deal with. So there I was, barely able to move, a watery mess, and so disconsolate I was unable to communicate. It was 8 October, 2003. And as it worked out, this was only one of several rock bottom experiences during this season in my life.
The above experience is not the only time I have succumbed to the brokenness of breakdown. Many times since I suffered burnout in 2005 I have had periods of hours, and up to a day or two, where spiritual attack or mental overload have rendered incapable of reliable cognition. Significantly, I have not suffered any significant breakdown since I confronted my minor social phobia in the recent years.
There is hope in the brokenness of breakdown if we can invent the space we need.
We need to find safety, where we are not so vulnerable. And whilst it’s easy to be vulnerable when we have all our faculties, the absence of faculties means we not only have nothing to give, but we also have plenty more to lose.
If we can find a safe refuge – one of practical means – and, importantly, we have someone to share with, someone who will listen – then we have hope of recovery.
There is great solace in getting away from the pressure points of life when we are particularly weak. It’s not as if we are running away when we need to get away. And getting away is about taking stock and finding rest.
When Hope Is Rest
There is not much sense in pushing ourselves to breaking point and continuing on through the brokenness of breakdown. We are so vulnerable in this sort of place we do ourselves no favours to continue to do what has clearly not worked.
Hope is rest. When we have succumbed to the strains of life and we literally have nothing left, God is imploring us to stop as we grind to a halt.
When we are sick and tired and at the end of our hope, our hope is rest to recover for a new day to come when we are well and refreshed.
God can do a lot with us and for us from the position of our brokenness; to give us rest whilst restoring our hope.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.