There Is Beauty In Vulnerability

By Elena Chernov

It was a brisk November Wednesday afternoon. We sat down in the back rows of a peaceful barrows auditorium a perfect setting for an interview. Hannah Pugh had just got out of her philosophy class called phenomenology and I asked her, “Do you have a philosophy by which you live by?” Her brown eyes lit up as this question seemed to intrigue her. She paused and gazed in the distance before answering as she swept a loose piece of her brunette hair behind her ear and said, “I have a philosophy that anytime the Holy Spirit seems to be influencing me in a particular direction that is the direction that I will pursue. It really hit me in high school I don’t care where I will end up my only priority is to love God and love others.” 

Hannah was homeschooled for a good part of her life in Oklahoma and there were limited opportunities in education, but her encounter with God in high school sparked her interest in wanting to study philosophy. She eloquently reflects on her words while answering, “I started to think about loving God with all my mind, but what does that mean what is a mind what are ideas? “I’m passionate about learning, traveling, talking to people, faith and just embracing all sorts of experiences in life.” 

Hannah’s Encounter With God

Through her encounter with the Holy Spirit, she said he showed her to “quit worrying about changing the world and just love me and your neighbor.” She has a passion for reaching out to her community and those excluded by the church. She grew up in a town where church culture was very hypocritical and not welcoming, which is where a desire for church planting sparked.“I felt called I think compelled because I’ve seen churches where lower to middle-class people have no place and are literally turned away. My older brother has a lot of mental illnesses and he was literally turned away. LGBTQ turned away, a lot of ethnic minorities in many congregations in the South turned away.”  

Hannah feels very strongly about being loving to those viewed by the church as the misfits of society. “I see some churches very problematic as a Sunday morning routine rather than an embodied people, passion and mission. That breaks my heart and I think that’s an injustice.” Loving God and loving people is what matters most to Hannah. “Seeing the vulnerability of opening up our homes to the people who live to our right and left in our community our school, work I’m really passionate about seeing that sort of thing.”

She continues to say, “it’s the ultimate act of saying every human being is known and loved by our maker and we may say I saw Christ, no it’s he saw you.” Hannah’s boyfriend Grant says, “She always resorts to God for processing and answers… I love this dream she had recently of a church filled with plants and vegetation. She told me she would like to start a home church of this aesthetic.”

Hannah’s Childhood 

Hannah’s childhood was filled with dance, imagination, and creativity. She danced for 13 years and as a child her favorite thing to do was dance. She says, “that’s something in my soul that will always characterize who I am even though I am not practicing dance and I think in my happiest freest self is when I would dance.” She was imaginative as a child, “I invented an imaginary island called Frugolooloo when I was in 3rd grade which had its own government, unique education, unique structures, and magical car type transportation.”

But Hannah’s childhood was one that was difficult, but she doesn’t let that define her story. “It was difficult in many ways due to several unhealthy relationships, but I don’t look at the tone of my life as sad. I won’t allow the narrative of my life to be a tragedy.” Even though it was hard to talk about Hannah’s words felt empowering and raw. She shared her heart and that vulnerability is why I felt it so easy to talk to her. She says, “I can write my story through the lens of someone who has maybe had challenges or difficulties that were unfair, but I can still be the creator of a positive beautiful future.” 

A Visionary

Hannah’s a free spirit at heart and wants to see the world. She’s been to Paris, a city she fell in love with, but she wants to discover the world and would love to live in a bunch of different places. She says, “I would love to live in Paris for a time not forever. I don’t want to hunker down in one place, probably because of my upbringing, because I’ve never lived anywhere longer than 4 years.”

Hannah describes her time in Paris as if it’s a scene from a movie. She says, “I jump off of a 15-foot cliff into a very cold river in the South of France in mid-July, guided by local children playing at the beach. I am in a swimsuit with no life jacket, my bare skin exposed and seen. I feel the sun beating on my skin and the wind whipping against me. A blood-curdling scream can’t help but escape my mouth. This is how life reminds me that I have a voice.” 

Hannah’s passion is travel and becoming a teacher at an international school. She wants to learn through all the experiences life has in store for her. “It’s not a backup plan, it’s a semi-plan either that or become a Montessori teacher internationally.” But one of her wildest dreams she says grinning is to establish an electronic portfolio company. “I prefer to create rather than consume. I love anything creative.” Her boyfriend Grant says, “Hannah has a brilliant mind, she pursues ideas and thoughts aggressively.” Hannah’s main form of expression is writing, writing about anything, but she also writes songs about God. She says, “it’s how I connect with Him.” But as Hannah says as long as she is loving God and people it doesn’t matter where she ends up. 

Vulnerable Beauty 

We spoke about relationships and love. Love can be really hard, but there’s beauty in the vulnerability of relationships. She says with a big smile on her face, “I have a very serious boyfriend who I love, that’s been very healing for me to have him in life.” Grant describes the first time in meeting Hannah, “She was this mysterious farm girl. With a certain sparkle in her amber eyes and a contagious giggle.” Hannah has seen the beauty of love be exemplified most by her own parents. She says, “They are in love not because of their feelings or passion but because of their commitment to each other I’ve seen that beautifully modeled through them.” She goes on to say, “It’s really hard to learn to love someone. It’s easy to fall head over heels, but it’s hard to let someone love you.”

Hannah’s words are ones I will never forget. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but I see a beauty in Hannah’s vulnerability.

She has a passion to learn, but through our conversation, I feel like I was the one learning from her. She has experienced pain, love, and joy but she doesn’t let the difficulties of life limit her instead she allows herself to blossom in life’s most unexpected, vulnerable places.

Hannah encountered God and his faithfulness in those difficult moments as she says, “Through doubt, uncertainty, heartache, and failure I’ve encountered God’s faithfulness more than in times of triumph.”