Penny and Amy Julia stand together in a snowy woods.

Able to be Wounded, Able to Love

In my recent essay for Plough Magazine, I wrote, “Penny was diagnosed with a ‘disability’ when she was born, and I still use that word to describe her condition because it is the easiest way to convey the truth that she moves and learns and processes information more slowly than typical kids. And yet the word that seems more appropriate as a descriptor of Penny’s experience of the world is ‘vulnerable.’”

The word vulnerable comes from a root that means “able to be wounded.” No wonder we don’t want to be vulnerable. No wonder we fear having children who are particularly vulnerable. 

And yet that same capacity to be wounded is related to the capacity to give and receive love. If we are not able to be vulnerable with one another, then we cut ourselves off from the truest parts of who we are, of what we need, and of what we have to offer. 

But even in the safest places, when we are vulnerable, love will bring wounding whether that’s because of loss or experiencing and caring for the heartbreak experienced by the people we love. 

Recognizing Penny’s vulnerability—her ability to be wounded and her ability to love—prompted me to ask myself how much have I tried to guard myself from being vulnerable. What would it mean to be able to put down my armor? How can I identify the habits and patterns that have kept me from being wounded but have also kept me from being able to participate in love?

My conversation with Matt Wickman earlier this week on the Faith and Imagination podcast pushed me to think more deeply about vulnerability, mutuality, love, autonomy, human perfection, and how having a child with a disability has helped me learn more about all of these things. (Listen here.)

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