“When you get here, just come on in. The front door is unlocked,” the text message reads.
I park in the circular driveway behind the last in a row of cars. Pausing, I take a deep breath before emerging into the cool fall air. As I climb the few stairs leading to the front porch, I notice a soft light shines through the transom windows hugging the door. I reach for the handle and feel the easy, friendly “click” of an unlocked door. I hope I am not betrayed by this warm welcome.
I’ve been betrayed before by the invitation to “come as you are.”
I’ve shown up exhausted, disheveled, or overwrought—sometimes all three simultaneously—and been met by judgmental glances rather than compassionate understanding. In spaces where I thought my weariness would find rest, I’ve had to summon the strength to pull myself together and put on a smile.
I’ve spoken up, responding to a question, engaging in a small-group discussion, or taking a proffered microphone, and received awkward silence instead of earnest engagement. “Is it because I’m a woman?…Because I overshare?…Because I’m an Enneagram 4?…Because I’m too emotional?” I’ve wondered. As a result, I’ve learned to bite my tongue.
I’ve risked vulnerability in spaces that promised safety, and I experienced the shame of exposure rather than an embrace of acceptance. The rising heat in my chest, the knot in my gut, the tightness in my throat…I’ve come to identify these as warning signs of shame. When they’ve appeared, I’ve sought protection by shutting down or skulking away.
Instead of leaving these encounters with a full heart, I’ve left with a full head, replaying familiar scripts all of the way home—“You are too much,” “You are not enough,” “You speak too freely,” “You are a mess,” “You don’t fit in.” Who’s leveling these accusations? Over time, the voice of the enemy has begun to sound a lot like my own. I can be my own worst enemy.
To be fair, I’ve also tasted the sweetness of being seen in a safe community. I’ve felt the balm of sincere kindness and care. I’ve experienced the delight of mutual attunement and engagement. In small groups, book clubs, “moms” communities, Bible studies, and many other gatherings, I have found welcome and encountered goodness. I suppose this is what keeps me coming back, taking the risk to approach the door, push it open, and step inside.
With each invitation, I weigh the risk versus the reward: pursue life-giving relationships and spiritual community, which I deeply desire, or remain outside, where I feel safe yet isolated. Which feels stronger? My present desire or my memory of past offense? My deep longing or my instinctive fear? My instinct to move toward or the impulse to run away? I move toward…
Standing on the porch, hand on the door handle, I gently push. The door opens, and when I step inside, I am met by the autumnal smell of pumpkin spice and vanilla. I notice a candle flickering on the nearby table, and just beyond, animated voices and laughter can be heard. I take another deep breath and step into the house more fully. I have decided—I will always decide—to enter in. It is worth the risk.
Susan Tucker is a lifelong lover of story, and with curiosity and openness, she often explores in her writing the tension that life holds. A former English teacher, Susan loves meaningful use of language, especially when used to stir the soul and whet one’s appetite for more truth, goodness, and beauty. Compelled by a burgeoning interest in trauma recovery, she pursued training at The Allender Center, completing the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care, Level I and Level 2. Susan and Tim, her husband of 28 years, are the parents of two sons, now young adults, and adjusting to their newly empty nest.nbsp
You have our clear and accurate words to the experience of taking the necessary risks to be received and to belong just as we are. Thank you for this offering of honesty and encouragement, Susan.
I say Amen! I bless again and again your defiant decision to enter in. The world and my own life would be vastly dark without your courageous risk.
I always enjoy what you name and then write. I wish I had written this one. It’s so ordinary and extraordinary. I haven’t been conscious enough to name what you have. I appreciate every word of it!