The Fear Of Vulnerability

You may receive letters from your missionary that lack significant content or dwell on frivolous topics.  If you do, you have a profound opportunity.  Your missionary will never fully succeed if he or she does not learn to create sacred space.  You can model creating sacred space by the letters you write. 

When I was in the mission field as a young man, there was a pattern I observed repeatedly.  We would have various kinds of missionary meetings.  The meetings ranged from big sessions with general authorities to simple sessions with a small group of missionaries.  Often the Spirit would fall upon us and take us into sacred space.  Those were precious moments in which the mysteries of God unfolded, and our minds were flooded with intelligence.  I considered them to be profound moments worthy of continued contemplation and discussion. 

Yet almost invariably, the missionaries would walk into the next room and the conversation would shift.  They would talk about what they were planning to do on preparation day, what the latest gossip was in a former ward, or any of a hundred other things.  In the early part of my time as a missionary, I was as guilty of this as anyone.  As I matured spiritually, however, I yearned to stay in sacred space.  It seemed to me that we could have stayed at a precious level of discourse, but instead we traded it for a “mess of pottage” (see Genesis 25:29-34). 

I mentioned this memory to a friend and he had an interesting response.  He said, “Yes, people are not comfortable with the intimate.”  I think this is true.  Spiritual experiences are intimate experiences and it is hard to deal with the intimacy involved. 

I remember a man named Kurt who was a teacher in our High Priests Quorum.  The last time he taught was by far his best lesson.  He told a story about his daughter Jane who was on a mission in Europe.  One day, Kurt was overcome by a very dark feeling.  He had a strong impression that his daughter was experiencing difficulty.  He could not shake the feeling. 

Finally, he went into a closet and shut the door.  He stood there and held out his hands as if Jane were sitting in the closet.  He gave her a blessing.  Two weeks later, he received a letter from Jane.  She described a difficult time and how it dramatically turned around.  She said she felt as if she had received a blessing from her father.  Tears poured from his eyes as he told this story.  I was very moved and inspired. 

Then Kurt apologized for telling the story.  I was surprised because this was the best lesson he had ever taught.  Yet he was a little uncomfortable.  Why? 

He was in a room full of men and he was crying.  It was as if he had violated a rule: Do not be intimate. Kurt knew it was acceptable to be intimate in church, but he still felt some need to apologize.  He was making a small bow to an unspoken rule.  The rule is do not reveal yourself.  Do not express your deep feelings because such behavior is weak and inappropriate.  These rules comes from the world and not from God, and these rules keep us from having great experiences.  They keep us from being transformational teachers and change agents.  Particularly as missionaries, we need to learn how to share that which is central to our spiritual being.

We all need to think about our capacity to create sacred space.  We need to help our children and ourselves feel comfortable in sacred space.  As we choose to move closer to Jesus Christ, our sensitivities will grow and we will feel more deeply.  We need to embrace and express these feelings.  The fear of crying is a concept from the world.  Jesus was a Man of ultimate strength and he cried regularly (see John 11:35).

The world will pull us toward ordinary conversations.  Our job is to originate, to be creators, and we do this by creating sacred space.  It is something that happens as we become more pure and more authentic.  We become more pure and more authentic by moving closer to Jesus Christ.   


Journal entries:

Record the most important insight you gained here.

Write about a time you felt you were in sacred space.

Record an experience from your life that will help your missionary understand that his or her teaching will more likely lead to conversion when he or she loves being in and creating sacred space.