Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Process of Unbending

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I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
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Often when I feel uncomfortable or a bit nervous, I will bend myself together and make myself small. I will sit with my knees tucked up against my chest, my hands clasped protectively in front of my knees. It is a defensive position, an attempt to ease my tension and nervousness and keep myself safe.
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As humans, our first instinct is to protect ourselves, to hide and cover those places that seem vulnerable. We do this when faced with physical harm, but we also defend ourselves against emotional and spiritual discomfort. Instead of exposing our weaknesses and insecurities, we shield them, cover them up, and pretend they do not exist. We avoid situations that scare us or make us apprehensive. We edit how much we self-disclose to others. We project an ideal version of ourselves.
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However, while protection is often our first instinct, I am coming to realize it is not a behavior we as Christians should engage in, for at its center it is dishonest and self-focused. Rather, we should attempt to unbend ourselves, to expose our vulnerability, reach out to others, and eliminate falseness.
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This process of unbending starts at the soul level. It involves an honest look at ourselves in the presence of God, a willingness to admit to ourselves and to God where we fail, where there is sin within us. It is, to borrow the words of Rilke, staying clear in God's sight. As we unbend ourselves before God we make ourselves known and we are able to experience the mercy and forgiveness available through the blood of Christ. Day by day we must unbend our souls and expose all the dark crevices to light and truth.
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Unbending spiritually inevitably will affect the way we live our lives. It is a reorientation, a move from inward-focus to outward-focus. As we unbend, as we pull our knees from our chest, stand up straight, and unwrap our arms from around our own waists, we are able to reach out to others. Tim Keller says that it is is only when we have unbent ourselves and allowed ourselves to feel discomfort and uncertainty that we are beginning to live God's call for our lives. God does not call us to a life of ease and comfort. But it is exactly in that discomfort that trust is built, faith is grown, and sin begins to peel away.
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Discomfort can take many forms, but for me it has often occurred in the context of relationships. I want to be thought well of by others, thus I often veil those aspects of myself I find embarrassing. For instance, this year I am living with some other girls in an apartment that is neither well-decorated nor neat and clean. It embarrasses me. I wonder what people will think of me if I invite them over. For a while, I rarely invited people over. And if I did, I apologized for the apartment's appearance.
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But I was keeping people at arm's length; I treated friends as guests rather than inviting them into my life, imperfect and messy as it often is. Thus in an unbending effort, I am trying to invite more people over to my apartment and into my life. This is not always the most comfortable experience, for as Lauren Winner says, "unbending requires inviting my neighbors in the very places where I am most bent." As I unbend, my friends will see the dust bunnies under my kitchen table, they will see my unmade bed, and they might see the annoyed, selfish, unkind, and insecure me.
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But let me encourage you with this: it is rewarding. Honesty and openness are the foundations of stronger, more intimate relationships. As we unbend ourselves, we open ourselves to being known, being changed, and being blessed. Unbending is also an equalizer; it breaks down ideas of superiority amongst people. It enables us to reach out to others with a hand of acceptance and grace and understanding. It empowers us to walk in God's calling.
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pc: sxc.hu
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3 comments:

  1. Yeah, I've been going through an unbending process myself. It's called dealing with my discomfort with conflict. God has shown me that the truth in my heart and knowledge of His Word needs to come out. I know His Word about biblical conflict resolution, and the Lord desires to use me as an example to teach what that looks like in relationships. He holds us accountable for what we know. I'd very much rather run and hide when conflict arises rather than looking at the person in the eye and saying, "hey, can we chat a minute?" But, the thing is...LOVE wins. God wants us to be honest and speak in His Love. If we continue running from others and ourselves, how can we shine His light? We live and shine His Light today with what He is doing through our lives with His Word today. Thanks for the post. Love the freedom of living in His liberty! :)

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  2. Thank you so much for writing this!

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  3. This is simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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