A Lesson in Vulnerability, Weakness, and Unapologetic Messiness

brokennesOn December 7, I hosted the second annual shindig for the Kinky Curly Theological Collective. When I initially started planning for this convening back in June, I could have never imagined that I would be hosting this gathering of dynamic Black women feeling utterly broken, defeated, and raw. But that is what happened. 

Throughout the month of October, but mostly November, I spent many of my days in tears. I spent these days weeping, full of self pity, because of unforeseen circumstances in my life. The presentness of my emotions made me feel hesitant about moving this conference forward, but I had already booked several speakers who were making travel arrangements. So I persisted, sending out emails and text messages to encourage Black women to show up and participate. 

Weeks leading up to the event, the tears increased. Because now in addition to my already existing emotions, I began to feel insecure about recruitment. And then just a few weeks before the conference, I had surgery on my eyes to correct the misalignment that I had lived with for over 30 years. The week of the conference, I came down with a nasty cold that I just could not shake. Also that week, a transition in a very important relationship brought me to my knees and almost felt too much to bear. I was angry and wanted to cuss everybody around me flat out. But since that really isn’t my style, I cried instead. 

Unable to sleep because of a continual flow of snot and worries on my mind, I woke up at 4.30 a.m the morning of the conference. I prayed, studied, and tried to get my mind right in spite of how I was feeling on the inside. And then I left my house, long before everyone else in my house was up to purchase a few more things for the gathering so that I could be at the venue by 8.30 a.m. ready to set up and host all of those who were coming. My plan was to have time in the space to connect to the Divine before anyone else showed up. When that didn’t happen, I realized that snot aside, the 4.30a.m. wake up call was God’s way of settling my heart before I gave of myself to all of the Black women who were attending the conference that day.  

And do you know what? In spite of how I felt leading up to all of this, and even during it, that the event was more than I could have ever imagined. The way that people participated, showed hospitality and love to one another, and to me, was incredible. All of the speakers were magnificent and the only complaint that people had was about figuring out how to find parking. There was a powerful, undeniable presence of the Divine that one cannot coerce into existence. The presence was there because we showed up and because I, in spite of myself, was obedient and did not allow myself to hide away (even though I wanted to).  

And after event, as the evaluations came in, the appreciations for the space felt gratifying. Black women talked about how much they were thankful for the opportunity to be present with other Black women and be real. They welcomed the opportunity to be vulnerable and to share in the vulnerabilities of others. And all of them enjoyed the speakers that we convened which was great because they really were amazing. All of this was confirmation that the work that I am doing with the Kinky Curly Theological Collective is the work I am called to do. But it was also confirmation that even in my own brokenness, I am still called. The call isn’t waiting for me to get cleaned up and presentable. The call isn’t waiting for me to get healed. Instead, the call takes me as I am and even makes space for my mess to be a point of testimony and encouragement to those around me. 

This lesson reminded me of something that I have long known but that I sometimes forget: there is strength in vulnerability and weakness. The world would have us believe that in order to be accepted, we have to be polished and all cleaned up (which is why I forget), but the reality is that so few of us are. So many of us, on any given day, are struggling with demons that refuse to submit. But we struggle and move forward because we know that the call of God is greater than any situation we face, and far greater than all of our insecurities. To suggest that we have to be perfect and presentable before we are in a space to lead, to heal, to write, to minister, to sing, to have something valuable to say, is an insult to that call and to the Divine. 

The fact of the matter is that the barometer of perfection or togetherness, is another tool to discount our witness. When I say our, I mean the witness of Black women in particular, who cannot be too angry, too emotional, too loud, too undone, too anything that does not measure up to a white heteropatriarchal paradigm in order to be taken seriously. When we speak up and out against misogynoir, our witness gets dismissed as emotionalism which then becomes another excuse to outrightly dismiss us. In order to be heard in spaces of the powerful, we have to act as if we have not been harmed in those same spaces, which means that there is no space for vulnerability and radical truth telling. Which also means that there is no space for us to show up messy and bruised, with our unhealed battle wounds open and exposed. 

I am called, you are called, in spite of all of the emotions that we wear on our sleeves like ornaments. In this season of immense brokenness for me, I had thought that I would have to sit down and recuse myself from ministry and other prophetic truth telling work. I thought I would have to stay silent and keep things to myself lest I screw up and inadvertently say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, because of my unhealed pain. This was a trick and a lie that I believed for too long. Today, I shake it off, committing to showing up vulnerable, weak, and at times messy even as I continue to do my work to be better.

2 thoughts on “A Lesson in Vulnerability, Weakness, and Unapologetic Messiness

  1. dannelld

    Ebony,

    A million yes-es!!! I am so very proud of you! You bring an honesty, an articulation of heart and soul, a depth of truth, a willingness to go as the Lord leads you (no matter the conditions of life). Keep doing all of this through your living, mothering, writing, asking questions, listening, loving, leading, surrendering, and breathing.

    Thank you for writing this follow up to your Collective’s gathering. I hope you are already making plans for the next one.

    It would be lovely to gather for tea or a meal. At the moment the flu has come to visit our home, so let’s plan ahead.

    Welcome to a new year. I can’t wait to discover what the Lord has ahead for each of us!

    Dannell

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