To Know, To Love, and To Follow: The Call to Vulnerability

August 26, 2020

This month’s blog series focuses on the grace we pray for in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises: to know, to love, and to follow Jesus. Today as we end this series, Gretchen Crowder shares with us how we need to be vulnerable in order to change and grow.

First years are always filled with growing pains, and not one of my first years of teaching was an exception to this rule. The first one in a Jesuit school, however, was particularly achy. There is something about learning how to be an Ignatian educator that mimics the growing pains of youth. Suddenly everything I had learned about teaching and spirituality and who I was as a person of faith was turned on its head.  Like a child suddenly facing rapid growth, I did not know how to deal with it all. 

So, I fought against it.  

I came to meetings with my faculty advisor with the conclusions already reached. I knew what I excelled at and, even more clearly, I knew what I needed to improve. I already had my own improvement plan. Every time. I called it “being prepared.” She did not quite call it that. 

Even though I was not aware of it at the time, this “improvement plan” of mine was actually my script to enter into a conversation without having to hear anything I did not want to hear. It was my script to enter into a conversation without having to be vulnerable or watch another person be vulnerable with me. This script, however, did not actually help me navigate the conversation more peacefully. Instead, it left me completely unavailable to the conversation. It left me unavailable to the fruits that can come from simply listening to another person. It left me unavailable to hear what really needed to be said.

How often do we enter into a conversation with God, script in hand? I know I do it all the time, and I often wonder what God is thinking when I do. 

I know now what my advisor was thinking. After a few months of these meetings had passed, I entered her office, script in hand as usual. This time, however, she put her hand up to stop me. She asked me to put my paper down, and then asked me to leave her office. “Gretchen, we can not have a conversation until you are ready to listen as well as talk. Come back when you are ready to do that.” Baffled, I left. 

This was a difficult moment for me. I am a rule-abider, A-student. I do not get kicked out of people’s offices! But there I was being kicked out and wondering if it meant that perhaps this job I had changed everything in my life for… wouldn’t last. So I had to take time to pause, to breathe, and figure out what to do next.

Eventually, I realized in order for this particular new job to work out – something had to change in me. Over the next few weeks, I approached her door several times, reaching up my hand to knock… and then walking away without making a noise. It took awhile for me to realize that the one thing standing between me and growth was availability. Like St. Ignatius states in the First Principle and Foundation, there were created things standing in the way of my availability to a real conversation. I was afraid to change. I was afraid to be wrong. I was afraid to be imperfect.

In order to really grow, I had to let those things go so I could be more available to listen. I had to let them go so I could be available to be vulnerable and allow someone to be vulnerable with me. Only then, could a real conversation begin.

In all honesty, I still struggle with vulnerability particularly with Christ. I still show up more often than not with a script in hand wondering if He can help me polish my plan. I know I do it because being truly vulnerable is so hard. Letting Christ know that I do not actually have all the answers and being open to where He wants to lead me takes tremendous courage. I also know, however, that I am entering my fourteenth year at a place that has literally changed my life. I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t take a risk and put the script down and let Christ speak directly to my heart. 

As we wrap up this series of knowing, loving and following the Lord, I invite you to think about how you enter into conversations with Him. If you are like me and have the polished script all ready for your next time in prayer, consider laying it down. Instead, just take a breath, raise your hand, and knock on Christ’s door with an open heart. It may just change your life. 

 

Go Deeper: 

Explore more about Vulnerability with Christ with these other articles: 

For more on the First Principle and Foundation, check out this video from The Jesuit Post.

Photo by Christina @wocintechchat.com on unsplash.

Gretchen Crowder is the Director of Campus Ministry at Jesuit Dallas and an adjunct faculty member for the University of Dallas. She has a B.S. in mathematics and an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. After teaching mathematics for almost a decade, she fully embraced her passion for ministry. She resides in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three sons.

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