By Sarah Boonstra
Who in their right mind wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 10,000 feet in the air?
That was the question I asked myself as I stood in the open door of a small but fully functional plane, strapped to a very nice gentleman who was willing to take full responsibility for deploying my parachute as I plummeted towards the earth.
As I stood there I knew I had two options; I could either jump or face the shame of disappointing my husband (who was standing right behind me), and the others who were waiting with anticipation for news of our adventure.
Facing shame was not my strength so I jumped.
Taking off our masks and being vulnerable can feel a lot like jumping out of an airplane. You cannot turn back once you take off the mask. You cannot escape back into safety.
Shame and fear of vulnerability shaped my childhood.
I had created a safe place for myself; alone and away from others who might see the shame I carried from childhood abuse. I swore I would go to the grave with my secret for I knew that it could destroy my parents and I could not bear to cause them hurt. I also felt responsible for what had happened to me. So I wallowed in shame. I spent nights pleading with God to please stop the world so I could step off. Anything seemed better than sharing what had happened to me. I was safe but lonely.
The first time I told someone my story of childhood abuse I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane. As the words “I was molested when I was younger” spilled out, I felt like I was in a free fall. How would my friend react? I looked anywhere but into her eyes. My heart raced and my mouth was dry. The seconds ticked as she looked at me. Then in a rush of relief, my friend was still my friend. She listened to my story and shared a bit of her “me too.”
I was no longer alone. And the vice-grip of shame was loosened.
Jumping out of an airplane terrified me. I had the same feeling of my heart racing and dry mouth. As I tumbled out, the wind raced past my face and my cheeks flapped. It was cold and loud. And then suddenly the kind gentleman pulled the cord and my parachute whooshed into place. I gently floated toward the earth. Everything around me was quiet and peaceful. The view was spectacular.
The same is true of the years since I first truthfully told my story. Each time I have shared my shame I feel a tiny bit freer, a little lighter. And with other people alongside me the view is spectacular.
Being vulnerable is a lot like jumping out of an airplane. First things first, we need a parachute. That would be Jesus. Jesus is the perfectly packed, never-going-to-fail-us parachute.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
I realize now that God never once left my side. He was with me in all the years of the abuse and the ugly. He was the God who saw, he wept for me and for my hurt.
Second, if we risk being vulnerable, we may want someone to be our tandem; a friend to jump out of the plane with.
Third, we need to make sure they know what they’re doing. We can only risk vulnerability with someone who has earned the right to hear our story.
My life is far from perfect. In fact, I am a master at avoiding the jump of vulnerability. When I feel hurt I hide. I escape back to the safety behind my mask of nice Christian girl. I don’t want anyone to see the real me for fear of rejection. Yet Jesus is faithful. He continues to invite me into the airplane…asking me to jump.
Sarah is wife to Brian, a mom of three hilarious, witty and challenging kids. An imperfect Jesus follower. A runner, reader and friend. Also, a dog lover, just ask Nala, the spoiled golden-doodle that resides at her feet.