Vulnerability is far bigger than owning my weaknesses.
I've discovered that vulnerability also includes owning my joy.
On a deep level, joy taps into my very worthiness. I question whether I even deserve it. I can think of so many who are worse off, and it feels unfair that anything should go my way at all. Who am I to have good things happen? Who am I to be happy? Especially when so many I care about are currently going through their own challenging and dark times.
The contrast of joy against others' pain makes my heart ache. And I instinctively dim the brightness of my joy because fully feeling, acknowledging, and expressing it seems wrong. Immodest. Arrogant, even.
The battering ram of the past 4 years left my heart tattered and torn. Grif and heartache consumed everything for so long that, without even realizing it, I became afraid of joy. In its place grew a deep, underlying foreboding... a proverbial holding of my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So when good things happen, of any variety, I find myself dismissing them. It's too good to be true. This won't last long. I shouldn't be happy. I don't deserve good things.
Somewhere along the line, I unknowingly convinced myself that being happy in this "new life" means I'm glad my "old life" fell apart. That enjoying Nashville is somehow an acknowledgement of gratitude that I'm no longer in Africa. Saying it out loud, I know it's ridiculous and untrue. My own journey of the past few years has taught me rather vividly that joy and grief usually reside together. I can be completely joyful and grateful for today, while still grieving over yesterday. One doesn't nullify the other.
And yet, still, even when joy comes, I don't embrace it. Knowing just how fleeting it can be, I send it on its merry way and close my eyes, cringing, for whatever might come next.
This is no way to live...
So I am intentionally forcing myself to lean into the vulnerability of joy. To look it straight in the eye, pull it close, and hug it tight. To allow myself to feel it and own it. To smile, to lift my eyes, to give thanks.
I don't know what tomorrow will bring, or if there's another shoe waiting to drop, or how long anything in this life will actually last. But I do know that the God who gives and takes away wants me to be fully present in the moments He's woven into my story.
It's not up to me to control what happens. But it's up to me to choose to live wholeheartedly—honestly accepting and embracing all that comes my way.
And so today I'm leaning in, embracing the risk, and owning my joy.