All too often, we hide what’s truly going on inside us to impress or perform for those around us. We feel as though we must have our act together all the time, without fail. We might look like everything’s fine on the outside, when really we’re at the end of our ropes. Yet when we do this, we’re not being completely honest with ourselves—and we’re likely not being honest with God.
It’s only when we acknowledge our brokenness and hidden feelings of emptiness that we see there is no need to keep striving. That we don’t need to earn anything. That God is always pursuing, protecting, and providing for us. He only requires that we stop and recognize who he is and who we are as his children. Sometimes, he will even put us flat on our back before we see it.
That’s what happened to last week’s UnChapel speaker, Sara Carrara Di Fuccia. She delivered her message from a seat onstage, her knee in a brace as a result of several painful surgeries. Yet rather than identify this as a weakness, Di Fuccia called it a reminder of how God works when we are in a posture of vulnerability.
Di Fuccia’s message—titled “Unplugged”—began by recounting some of her experiences over the past few years. She and her husband lived in England for four years while he worked towards his PhD. During their time there, Di Fuccia began experiencing pain from a former knee injury. She eventually found herself in such pain that her favorite hobbies were no longer an option. Running, biking, aerobics—all of it was off the table.
This, of course, only added to the stress of adjusting to life in a new country. She and her husband had already sacrificed a great deal—security in a familiar place, identity in their careers, time spent working towards a PhD. Now they were faced with another challenge in Di Fuccia’s knee surgeries.
After a second unsuccessful surgery, Di Fuccia said she “gave up.” She stopped trying to act like everything was okay, and instead simply surrendered. She claims, “In that moment of surrender, that’s when things started to change.” She started to see the Father come in and show her something different in the wilderness.
“I want to share with you, as hope breathed into your souls, that if you too are longing for an experience with the Father’s love that changes everything, it is possible for you. And I want to tell you about the posture and the position that we were in to receive that. That moment of surrender, that moment of ‘I have nothing left.’ That moment of desperation where it’s all lost . . . It is possible.” – Sara Carrara Di Fuccia
Di Fuccia said that God deliberately put her in a position where she was laid flat on her back, unable to do anything for herself, so that she could encounter something that couldn’t be planned or expected or earned. “That’s the posture where the Father comes and lavishes his love on us,” she said. In that place, we are no longer afraid to be real with ourselves or others. That’s where we are best able to claim our status as a child of God.
Following this experience, Di Fuccia saw two options ahead of her. She could push through and try hard and give in to the false self—a life which says you need to please, perform, protect yourself, and provide for yourself. Or she could choose to be vulnerable and open to what God had started and what he wanted to do. This might be the scary option, but it’s the one Di Fuccia went with. This posture “allowed for a taste of the Father’s love that brought me back to life in the deepest places of my spirit.”
So what does this option look like? For Di Fuccia, it took the form of a simple prayer: “I’m tired.” It wasn’t elaborate or extravagant. But it was honest. And this posture of being off her feet reminded her that she was still in a process, that she and God were doing this together. It was a place where God simply said, “You don’t have to try anymore. I will seek you and find you.”
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Author and public speaker Brene Brown once described such an experience as a breakdown, but later recognized it as a “spiritual awakening.” Psychologist John Bradshaw uses terms such as “awareness,” “coming out of hiding,” or “homecoming.” Walter Brugaman defines it as “orientation, disorientation, reorientation.” In AA, they call it “hitting rock bottom.” For Di Fuccia, the experience was “a process of discovery—a discovery of your true self. The child that was supposed to be. To become the person that God wants you to be.”
Di Fuccia spent a lot of time in her message discussing a childlike perspective. Children don’t think about measuring their words or performing for others. They are open with their emotions, the epitome of vulnerability. As Di Fuccia said, “I believe that this discovery process begins by coming to the Father like a child. I think that’s absolutely evident in Scripture” (Matthew 18:3-5, Mark 9:36-37, Luke 9:47-48).
We often do whatever we can to hide our true feelings, out of fear that we will be exposed. Yet to live in that false self, we are denying our very humanity. We are isolated from our own feelings. We suddenly think we need to buy someone else’s love—a part of our inheritance as children of God.
Here Di Fuccia referenced Isaiah 59:15b-17, which says, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.”
The verse is a prophetic picture of Jesus being sent into our lives. God looked at our world devoid of humanity and decided to save us and restore our humanity. Jesus took our shame and grief and gave us our true life back. We no longer have to worry about our next performance. We are free to embrace life, unaware of our inadequacies. Jesus came so that we might “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Di Fuccia saw this as a confirmation that God sees us in our situation and will show us the Father’s love.
Di Fuccia gave three main takeaways:
1) This is a journey.
A posture of vulnerability does not come overnight. It is a process of the discovery of the true self, initiated by God. He knows where you are. He will come and find you.
2) You do not need to earn God’s love, but receive it like a child.
We feel a need in our society to be perfect all the time. But God is big enough to meet our every need. As Di Fuccia said, “Let go of the reigns and enjoy your daddy.”
3) It’s an encounter that completely undoes us.
It strips away all of our need to impress. It doesn’t feel like chastisement – only love. It feels like you’re really living for the first time and draws a stark contrast between the false self and true self.
To close, she ended with a few questions;
How do you really feel about the life you’re living? Your role in your Christian community, your family, your friends? Are you really living in that role? Are you enslaved to compulsive behaviors to please, perform, and perfect? Do you feel trapped in a cycle where you feel compulsively that you need to barter, earn, or buy your protection or your provision? Is this the role that you’ve chosen or was it chosen for you long ago by experiences or examples that were set for you as a child that demanded that you create the false self? What do you really believe about the Father’s love?