The power of your intense fragility.

A friend of mine passed along an article from Christian Century about the handshake ritual at church (that is, pastors shaking hands at the door on the way out). Though I often avoid the handshake ritual, I have felt the holiness of that moment: taking the time to say that something really touched me in a sermon or to mention something that is going on with us and to have someone look me in the eye and let me know that they care what I have to say. I can do that by email, but . . . if I had to guess, I’d say that being vulnerable in person is part of the reason why we aren’t supposed to forsake meeting together.

I was thinking about the holiness of vulnerability last night, after a meeting in which about 15 adults went around the room and shared how we were doing. I would have been glad to share with any one of them individually, but it is hard for me to share my heart in a group. The response, though, really bowled me over, with people literally applauding my good news (that’ll boost your spirits, let me tell you) and sticking around after the meeting to commiserate with some of the things I am worried about. There is something sacred about sitting around a table and trusting people with a corner of your life. I used to think that was something that was easy, something we were supposed to do immediately with other Christians. But now I see how hard and risky it is. Now I feel more able to appreciate people who openly share how they are feeling. It means more to me now that it’s not so forced.

Part of what makes our interactions so holy is that we don’t always know how much they mean. We go out for someone’s birthday, and it’s only afterwards that we find out that this birthday has been particularly hard because of things going on with her family. You find out months later that something you said in passing helped someone through a hard time. Someone looks you in the eye and tells you she was thinking about you. You find the words to tell your friend how much it means that she let you cry on the phone that one time. And that other time. And that time last week.

I don’t know how to do all of this very well. I am still someone who has a hard time saying the words that are closest to her heart. But I am paying attention.

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