I went to the bank to wire the next three months of rent to my landlord, as I had done successfully several times before. When I was finished, I sent a text to let him know to look for it in his account. Unlike the other times, he couldn’t see it immediately. He then told me his bank card number had changed in the last three months. I went back to the bank in a bit of a panic, and they said to wait until Monday and see if he got the money. Monday came: still no money.
I had a pit in my stomach as I went back to the bank, wondering if I had just lost thousands of others’ sacrificially given dollars or what sort of bureaucratic red tape I might have to wade through to get it back. I was feeling vulnerable. There were so many ways this could go wrong. I was not sure I had enough Chinese ability to deal with this problem.
In these overwhelming situations, I’ve borrowed a prayer from Brené Brown: “Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen” (Daring Greatly, chapter 2). I read Daring Greatly during my first weeks in-country after hearing it recommended several times in discussions unrelated to living overseas. It isn’t specifically about living overseas. It isn’t even from a specifically Christian perspective (although Brown is Episcopalian). But it is one of the books that helped me the most as I navigate living in a context where my vulnerabilities are so obvious.
I generally want to do things perfectly (or at least well) or not do them at all. This is not the best mindset for learning a language or a culture. You can’t learn a language or participate in a new culture without making some mistakes or having some memorable moments. And that’s where I need the challenge to show up and let myself be seen.
When I show up and let myself be seen, I can enjoy giving my teachers an occasional laugh and learn from my language mistakes.
When I show up and let myself be seen, I take the risk to invite locals friends into my home and learn from what doesn’t work like I expected it would, like guests just standing around the counter and taking a little bit of food at a time instead of filling their plates and finding a seat in the living room. Buffets and cocktail style mingling are not the most natural ways to host events here, I’ve learned. But even when these events have felt awkward to me, my guests have enjoyed being invited into my home and trying something new.
When I show up and let myself be seen, I let local friends know some of my struggles and my vulnerability deepens our relationship.
When I show up and let myself be seen, I can better let my light shine, so that others will see it and glorify my Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
I went to the bank that day to show up and do what had to be done. I was ready to let myself be seen. Thankfully, the bank employee I dealt with was kind and helpful. She checked what was happening with the accounts and even talked to my landlord on the phone to explain it to him, because while I could understand the situation, I didn’t have enough language skills to explain it all on the phone. The solution was to wait three more days and the money would be returned to my account because there was no account on the other end. Once it was returned, I could wire it to my landlord’s new account. Those were a nervous few days for me, but it all happened as the bank said. I showed up and let myself be seen and received grace from a young bank employee.
Showing up and letting ourselves be seen doesn’t always have a happy ending or an easy resolution. Sometimes it is the way of the cross, dying to our own selves. But God invites us to participate in whatever we’ve been called to by showing up and letting ourselves be seen. And “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6).
Where do you struggle to show up and let yourself be seen?
How have you been living this way in your context?