“Attract us to becoming who we really are and too often afraid to become.”

When I was in my early twenties, I felt totally lost. I did not have a sense of who I was, and I was trying hard to find myself—sometimes looking in the right places (like church or retreats) and sometimes in the wrong places (like bars). One night in a bar, I met a guy who said he was going to Australia the next day and invited me along. As shocking as this may seem now, I was willing to go. But, I had no passport. I remember saying, “Note to self, get a passport.”

Was he serious? I don’t know. Was I? I don’t know that either. I just remember that in my attempt to figure out who I was, I wanted to be open to what life presented to me. I thought that if I collected enough experiences, if I put myself in enough different situations, one of them would feel right and reveal who I was meant to be. 

At some point, I realized that I was just afraid to become who I was really meant to be. I was using collecting experiences as a way of avoiding what I knew deep inside. Once I realized that, and it took me a long time (maybe fifteen years), I started to think more about standing in my beliefs, quite literally looking at where I was standing, physically standing, who was next to me and what I was doing. I started to pay more attention to that deep down feeling, trying to let it bubble up to the surface more frequently.

A lot of my becoming who I am meant to be has involved being with people with disabilities. Standing beside people who were vulnerable has helped me understand my own vulnerability. And their unconditional acceptance of me has allowed me to see myself as they see me—and as God sees me. In those times of simply being with another, often someone who was unable to talk or walk or do very much of anything, I see myself mirrored in their eyes and watched myself become the person I was meant to be.

That identify had a lot to do with vulnerability—seeing it, accepting it, loving it and living out of it. When Jim got sick and I was so scared, a friend said, “You are so vulnerable right now, and being vulnerable is so difficult for you.” She was right, feeling my vulnerability is very difficult for me, and it is also who I am called to be.




6 thoughts on “Vulnerability

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks Libby. I remember when I left l’Arche, I felt totally broken and vulnerable. It was very painful for me–and yet very good. I think our culture rewards strength, invincibility, etc., and denigrates vulnerability, which makes it difficult to show our weaknesses.

  1. Anne Marie Lom

    Thank you for this most tender exposure of a very important part of yourself. Helplessness, vulnerability, handicaps and mourning all expose very important parts of ourselves… very demanding but very necessary. Madeline, you are a master writer!

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Anne Marie, thanks for the “master writer” title (I am going to add it to my resume along with “freelance” given to me by the Philadelphia Inquirer!
      When I have been immersed in my vulnerability, I have felt most deeply that I am living where and how God desires–that place where my grounding is shaky or has completely disappeared and yet I carry on. It is the place that I am aware I am in God’s hands. I have let go (or have had things wrenched from my hands) and my grasp is empty.

  2. Patrick

    Thanks Madeline. I’m sometimes convinced that I wouldn’t know vulnerability if I saw it! If I saw it, my 1st temptation would be to hide it. Does it seem to you that women are many more times better at it than us men? Like hands in a cookie jar, maybe if I got caught at it or by desperation was forced into it! Maybe why I’m so dearly afraid of God? Dogs help for sure!!!

  3. Madeline Bialecki

    Patrick, I don’t know that women are necessarily better at recognizing vulnerability, let alone accepting it. For me, I think I had it thrust upon me enough times and seriously enough that I think I now give in a little easier or sooner. So much of when Jim was sick was about letting go and about accepting that we/I had no control.
    When Jim and I prayed Mass those last few months, I always wanted to pray the Eucharistic prayer that says “on the night he was betrayed, Jesus…” That, to me, exemplifies true vulnerability–to be able to move beyond betrayal almost in the same moment it is happening. Such an invitation to freedom.


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