Originally published Dec. 10, 2015

Part of the “Comfort and Joy” series of Franciscan Mission Service

A few weeks ago, one of my community members asked when in my life I’ve felt most at home.

It took little consideration for me to accept that it was here, at our dining room table, during our nightly dinner for 12, as Mercedes doused her meal in Tabasco, Sarah made her round of daily hugs, Josh confidently mangled a Swedish accent, Aubrey talked “Real Housewives” at incomprehensible speeds, Maria Googled singing cats, Janice laughed at our childish antics, Catherine belted “White Christmas” in September, Katie knitted a mini Franciscan, Cassie schemed to meet Macklemore, Erin doled out fresh confetti cookies, and Allison anxiously broke the frequent silent spells of her comfortably introverted housemates.

These were genuine, complete, beautiful human beings, and in their midst, I rested easily—fully Lizzy Balboa for the first time in my life.

At the Casa, we’re not just allowed, but we’re empowered and expected to be unabashedly ourselves—whether that means fervently defending man buns, asking ridiculous “Would you rathers,” or being utterly transparent in our fears and weaknesses.

We’re a community built on vulnerability—no facades, no armor. We demand nothing but sincerity from one another, and it’s terrifying. But it’s only in this discomfort that we can care and be cared for. It’s in this discomfort that we can fully love one another, invite each other to relationship, and become, truly, one body in Christ.

I experienced the magic of vulnerability after my first night terror at the Casa. The next day, I glibly narrated the event to my housemates and expected only sympathetic groans.

Never could I have imagined the reaction of unbridled love: the immediate gifting of a blest cloth of Our Lady of Guadalupe to hang on my bed; the pilgrimage to my room to sprinkle holy water and pray aloud for my peace; the insistence that I call for them or crawl into their beds given a future terror; the encouragement to depend on them with the assertion that, “It is a gift to me to be able to love you when you most need it. It is the greatest gift we can give to another person—the opportunity to love us at our weak times.”

They showed me the blessing of my sincerity, vulnerability, and weakness, which invited deeper connection and the occasion to practice love as Christ would. They asked me to open my heart to them and to trust them not to leave me exposed and unprotected, but instead to cradle my insecurities and lend me strength. They urged me to have faith in their love and to invest in their friendship.

I did, and it came to be in this exchange of love that we found mutual comfort and joy.

Original publication: http://franciscanmissionservice.org/2015/12/comfort-and-joy-vulnerability/

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