I received a lovely card this winter: “Sometimes you need a friend…to remind you how special you are. Hope you know others are thinking about you.” And in her handwriting: “Hope you are well and staying warm…I think of you often. We’ll have to get together when the weather gets better. Much love…”*
Oh, my. Doesn’t it feel wonderful to get something like that? And through the mail, no less. That takes extra time and thought. Just to be sure that you know that a friend is still in your life, and you in hers, and she is missing you.
Something like that touches a vulnerable place in us, doesn’t it? A surprise like that finds some magical, hidden part of us that has just been waiting for an affirmation that we are valued, loved, liked, appreciated – known. Right?
Every one of us is vulnerable. Not just in one way, but in many ways vulnerable. Darn it! We know what it feels like. Vulnerability shows up as those soft spots where we can be knocked off our pins when we feel small, insignificant, misunderstood, invisible, afraid, lonely, unloved. When we’re losing confidence, losing control over where we most want to be. And most of us want to be in control! Yesssss. Yes, indeed.
It all goes with the territory of being alive.
In my 78 years of life and 30 years of ministry, I’ve been in the presence of vulnerability a lot, and I’ve felt and seen its power, both in myself and in others. We are putty in its hands. I hate that! It can form us and shape us without our even realizing it.
But we can also master the art of shaping it, especially when we have help.
Vulnerability is part and parcel of life at any age.
But its power can ebb and flow.
Even in elderhood.
Elderhood may be just another season – the last season – but it has its own particular vulnerabilities that show up one at a time. Or sometimes in pairs! All brand new! Surprise! We all know what they are, right?!
Elderhood’s vulnerabilities can arrive suddenly (a fall and a broken hip) or they can show up over time (losing muscle mass, processing more slowly, finding out hearing aids are in the picture now, cataracts). Oh, so not fun. I know…I haven’t done the fall or had any broken bones, but the others are first-hand knowledge. And we know, I’m just getting started; there are so many more. It can be scary. So scary. Frankly, scary can easily morph into irritation at the unfairness of it all! Sometimes, it’s how I cope.
These new vulnerabilities are no less powerful than every other that we’ve faced. Even now, with all these years and experience behind us, we can find ourselves a bit off our game. The uncertainties of our aging can be unnerving, and we’re not sure that we’re up to it all, frankly.
Our confidence can wane. Our self-esteem is challenged when we’re not sure where we’re headed, and we think we should know how to do this – this living – by now. Our fears about our own aging can overwhelm us and become their own self-fulfilling prophecy. But just as we’re ready to let vulnerability have the stage again…
Then – sometimes – a little miracle happens,
and someone tells us we’re still okay.
We’re still important, still valuable.
We’re still wanted, still an integral part of someone’s life.
We still matter. We’re not done yet.
We may even have a new purpose for being here.
And it can arrive in a beautiful, loving card,
Or a phone call out of the blue,
Or a knock on the door,
Or even a text!
Thinking of you!
Suddenly, we’re not defined by our being old. We’re loved for who we are.
In the flash of a moment, we’re not invisible. Someone is so glad we’re alive!
At an unexpected hour, we’re not washed up. We are still important!
In the twinkling of an eye, we’re not alone. We’re surrounded by sudden love.
Someone is thanking us for who we are. They are helping us reshape our own vulnerability – to make it softer now, less unsettling, brighter.
We have been honored.
We are strong again.
We are filled to the brim.
And it took so little.
Surprised by wonder.
It’s all grace. Amazing grace.
I’m very okay with that.
*Her name is Mary. Say thank you to my dear friend, Mary, who is wondrous.