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It’s no secret that my father was a super hero.

A very dignified, English gentlemanly super hero. He was a little reserved, fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, gentle, loving, LOVED, sharp, cool, courageous, wise, funny – a ROCK star kind of super hero.

I adored him.

But he had an Achilles heel  … or two… or three

There were three things we were never allowed to do:

  1. Tickle his feet
  2. Mess up his hair
  3. Or laugh at him…

This third one was SERIOUS “Are you laffing at me?” he used to ask us in his exasperated English accent and the answer was always “NOOOooo Dad, we’re not laughing at you!”

“ARE YOU LAFFING AT ME?” – *fits of giggles*, “No, Dad, we would never laugh at you …”

Laffing, was no laughing matter I can tell you.

Of all the beautiful and virtuous characteristics I could have inherited from my father, I inherited this one – the ‘are you laughing at me?’ induced terror one.

If you laugh at me, I die, just a little, inside.

My secret is out.

I am pride-full.

I of course would dearly love to justify this and call it something else, like sensitive, or vulnerable or … well anything other than what it is …

I may not be prideful in the arrogant sense of the word. Rather, I am prideful about letting people see my weaknesses, that is hard for me and it amounts to the same thing – a hardening of the walls around the heart so that people won’t hurt me. I pretend to be strong when I am not and I hide my anxiety and my confusion under a veil of ‘whatever’s’ or casual ‘I don’t really care what you think of me’s ’ when secretly I care. A LOT.

Brene Brown gives a beautiful perspective on our fears of shame and vulnerability on TEDtalks and if you haven’t seen it, watch it, its brilliant.

You will probably cry.

But over the last few days as I have reflected on the dream language that is highlighting my changing season, I have come to the realisation, that vulnerability is an incredibly strong growth tool. Pride is unhealthy because it draws a ring around ourselves, shutting out God and others as we seek to live securely within the walls of safety. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not what Jesus would call abundant living.

Remember the greenhouse from my previous post on dreaming? The place where God and I needed to do some pruning? Well the interpretations have ‘sprung up’ and the first is that a greenhouse is a place of ‘controlled growth’, it’s kind of a fake environment. So on the one hand – pat on the back P for working out that you need to change, but take off the blinkers, you cannot always be in control of what form that change takes. GASP.

I thought I was being all wise and virtuous in admitting the need for change, but in my ‘sensitively’ (ahem) prideful way, I was still trying to control the way the change was brought about. I don’t want it to hurt, I don’t want to look like a fool while I ‘grow up’.

But it doesn’t always work like that – good honest change is hard and it requires immense amounts of vulnerability and courage.  Hiding behind my safety ‘box’ and saying nothing and doing nothing will not help me grow or heal and I feel part of my listening this week has brought me to this place where what I hear is …

I am the gardener’, says God, ‘not you. I do the cutting, not you.’

What I have to do is go out on a limb (yes, well, sometimes the words just tumble together cleverly like that don’t they? *laffing*) I have to go out on ‘a limb’ and be vulnerable. This Seminary place is the purrrfect place of vulnerability, I look like a fool often. I feel a little isolated. I mispronounce names all.the.time. I know nothing about anything and my life is being evaluated 24/7 it seems. I am old and young in ways I can’t quite understand. I am definitely out of my comfort zone and it’s wonderful and terrifying and challenging and rewarding. Bliss (can you hear the hysterical laughter?)

I am learning Hebrew, struggling with Zulu, anticipating Greek, singing Twsana, actually I best just stop there, cos I am likely to upset someone by forgetting to include their identity or language or home place – no safety zones here I tell you – conversations are veritable land mines waiting to go off at the slightest provocation. Phew.

Vulnerability with a capital Z and totally out of my control…

But that’s ok isn’t it? Because I am not supposed to be in control, I am just along for the ride and as I grow and learn so God whips out the watering can and the shears and says, ‘Right child, let’s have some fun – NO ONE will laff at you while I’m in control!’ They daren’t! My Dad is now a Heavens Angel and he’ll have something to say for sure!

So, yes, there are some changes afoot, changes that need to take place outside of the greenhouse of safety. I am learning to be vulnerable, I am learning to be open- hearted about criticism and I am growing in stature and courage on a daily basis.

This is fighting talk, can you hear it? Let’s check in again next week and see how brave I feel then…

But in all honesty – I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than here, right now.

Grate-Phil.

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