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On Being Weak

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I am a woman. I am a leader. I am a Christian. And when I hear the words of Jesus, "This is my body, broken for you," I want to holler back, "Right back at ya, boss."

That may not sound very scandalous to you, but in my context, weakness is not something to be proud of. It's something to conceal, hide, mask, ignore or overcome.

Admitting to weakness is risky. You become exposed. Known. Found out. Vulnerable. Not only that, but confessing your weakness could mean you lose some very real things: job security, respect from colleagues, maybe even health insurance.

I shared a bit about this struggle a few weeks ago, when I participated in a two-part teleconference regarding the anthology, Talking Taboo: Christian Women Get Frank About Faith.

The conference, hosted by WATER: Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, began with each participant describing what was taboo in our own contexts. I discussed how my chapter "Broken in the Body, Slain in the Spirit," was an attempt to name some of the ways I am weak, in both spirit and flesh.

At first, I regretted not writing about something more obvious, more sexy, more hot topic-y. After all, I could have addressed the stigma of being an ordained woman in ministry, or a working mother, or a progressive-christian-evangelical-feminist-Jesus-loving-pentecostal- reformed-presbyterian who loves Cheetos. And wine. Together.

But honestly, the thing most difficult to name was my own weakness. Both as a Christian and as a woman in leadership, I was most reluctant to name my own frailty.

In a culture that dubbed women the "weaker sex" and a Church that called women the "weaker vessel," the last thing I wanted to admit was that I was weak.

My only alternative was to embody strength, demonstrate power, and exhibit self-confidence. My only option was to practice what others have called, effortless perfection.

Or so I thought.

Because speaking candidly about fears, struggles, anxieties, and weaknesses of all kinds, is sometimes perceived to be breaking some sort woman-in-leadership-code, one that spans realms of both popular and religious culture.

And so we value strength over weakness. We privilege capability, over disability. We seek perfection, over wholeness. And we pretend to have it all together. But in doing so, we find ourselves increasingly isolated, anxious and fearful of being "found out." We're afraid that everyone will know we're an impostor, a fake and a weakling.

But here's the thing:

I am weak. And that's not something I need to be ashamed of.

What is shameful is pretending I'm not.

And the sweet irony is that being weak takes a lot of strength. Being vulnerable is an act of courage. And naming my brokenness, just may be the bravest thing I've ever done.