Kate Thomas (50), a mother of two and journalist wrote in the ‘Weekend’ section of The Times on Saturday 3rd March about her recent experience of vaginal rejuvenation in a London cosmetic clinic. It’s a graphic account in which Thomas outlines the procedure itself, her rationale for opting for it, her sex life and the most excruciatingly intimate details of her anatomy.
“The only thing protecting my modesty is a small towel draped across my lower tummy,” Kate Thomas writes.
After reading Kate Thomas’ article while on a coach journey, the newspaper falls into my lap and I glance furtively around my fellow passengers as if the author herself may appear from the rear of the coach at any minute, and on finding me reading her story, try to strike up a conversation. It would be an awkward moment for certain, though probably more for me than her. No doubt she would have declared a ceasefire on the war which raged in her brain while her fingers nervously hovered over the ‘send to the editor’ button.
The elderly pair opposite me are reassuringly chomping their way through a box of chocolate mints and flask coffee and the teenager behind them has not changed her expression since we left Glasgow early that morning. The normality of it all grounds me, and I turn away to look out the window at snow-covered fields. I’m done with this scenery now after so many miles on a coach but it too brings relief from this assault on my senses.
I want to wrap Kate Thomas up, to somehow try to protect this unknown stranger who is so close in age to me. I truly understand that she simply wants to embrace me and all other middle-aged women in the sisterhood of shared life around the menopause. She has chosen to be ‘vulnerable’ in the name of helping others or even (perish the thought) entertaining others. But it’s simply too much.
A current popular theme in Christian literature is ‘vulnerability’. We are being encouraged to wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves, to take ‘risks’ by publically declaring the contents of our innermost souls so that others will somehow feel better about themselves, feel understood, less isolated.
We appeal to those who feel they are ‘too much’ or whose difficulties are overwhelming to come and find a place of solace with us?
In our world of slick Instagram pictures, on-trend hashtags, reductionist memes and individualistic lives, this may be the wake-up call needed by Christians to remove themselves from their pedestal of aloof togetherness and to engage wholeheartedly and face to face with the real world.
But there is the risk that in this shared vulnerability the true strugglers become just a little more vulnerable; that our ‘virtual friends’ simply don’t understand as we would wish them to and that vulnerabilities become unhealthily competitive and we drown in a deluge of human sorrow which none of us can deal with.
James, the apostle, encourages us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5, 16). This calls for judicious sharing with others. Choose to be vulnerable only with those who will pray for you. Share honestly and humbly with these people. God is teaching this introvert just how much she needs others to pray for her and how valuable her prayers for others are.
Intercessory prayer heals the broken and gives dignity to the downtrodden in a way mere ‘sharing’ never can.