That’s the mission I have for this year. That’s what I decided on January 1st, 2016 would be what I dedicated myself to be: Vulnerable. I thought I was good at it. God proved that was my pride speaking, not the truth.
I’ve begun to learn the balance between burdening my friends and carrying too much baggage. I’ve begun to get over my fear of confrontation. I’ve begun to find the root of anger is pride and misunderstanding. I’ve begun to see that communication really is key when it comes to emotions and the things going on in your life. I’ve discovered that anxiety grows out of boxing things in and not seeing your incomparable worth.
I’ve been reading a lot of bible verses about vulnerability:
- Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
- But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:29-30)
- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. (Galatians 6:2-6)
- I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-4)
I’ve also picked up the book “Daring Greatly” by the famous shame researcher Brené Brown:
- “We need to understand these trends and influences, but I find it far more helpful…to look at the patterns of behaviors through the lens of vulnerability. For example, when I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose…”
- “…there are many tenants of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerabilty and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.”
You see, through deepening my understanding of what it means to be vulnerable, I’ve found that I’m not living the joyful, wholesome, and wholehearted life that God is calling me to. I’ve dug and found the parts of me and my life that I hide from others, even attempt to hide from God, out of my own shame and pride. The identification of these parts of my life has let me slowly open my tightly-sealed-perfectly-wrapped-with-a-bow-on-top life in order to reveal the things I struggle with to others I can trust and God. These trustworthy friends and the Lord himself continually remind me that my identity is not found in these hidden, shameful parts of me and my life, but rather it is found in Jesus Christ.
So let’s get a little vulnerable – but within reason. Let me tell you about a few of these hidden, shameful parts of me and my life that have become light in the darkest places.
Through all this vulnerability reading and digging, I discovered one thing underlying everything else – recently, I’ve been angry. I’ve been angry because I’m stressed. I’ve been angry because I felt like others and the universe itself don’t treat me fairly. I’ve been angry because I’m not moving. I’ve been angry because I felt like no progress was being made, no relationships were being mended, no illnesses were being cured – nothing was happening. Yet, it was in the middle of that anger and lack of control – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the midst of the burning fire – that God settled me and broke the chains and started giving me glimpses at His plans and promises. I read verses about anger and realized I didn’t want it anymore:
- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31)
- See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
- But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16)
God intervened. I was walking out of church and looked up at the colored light that was focused on the wall across the auditorium. I could clearly see the beam of light shooting from its source, unmoving and still – focused. I either remembered or realized in that moment that in light there are millions of particles moving at the speed of light. They’re all bouncing around, but we perceive them as this one, unmoving, still beam.
Life’s a lot like that.
Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in one spot. Sometimes life seems to be falling apart around us completely out of our control – and in that moment, staring at that light, mine certainly did. We deal with broken friendships or family relationships; work through the craziness of this world and others around us; suffer through loss, death, and disease; hurt, cry, yell, scream, curse. All because we choose to focus on is the one, still, unmoving circumstance. We feel stuck and frustrated with God for not moving. We lose trust in the promise that God has a plan to prosper us and give us hope.
But the Bible says that God and Jesus are the LIGHT. Though we choose to focus on the beam and God keeps the beam steadily focused in one spot, unmoving, within that beam of light He is moving millions, billions, trillions, if not an infinite amount of particles faster than our eyes can see. But He promises us the understanding and the eyes to see those movements if we choose to focus on Him. He focuses the beam in one particular spot on the wall and moves within it. The beam is perfectly placed on that wall, precisely where the light is needed in that exact moment. It’s our choice to focus on the fact that it’s not moving or to recognize the planning, goodness, and love God is working towards in that one, unmoving, still, focused spot. It’s our choice to focus on the fact that we’re not moving or to trust the promises of our loving, omniscient, almighty Father.
God made something clear to me throughout this painful process of tearing down my walls of shame and pride and becoming vulnerable. He made clear that He had to promise there would be hope and a future because He knew there would be times in our lives that we feel hopeless, worn, and broken. He wouldn’t have to make that promise unless He knew there would be times in our lives when we needed to hear it. In those times, we need not only His promises to cling to, but the faith in His good, honest character to know that He is working through it. As I thought about the infinite number of particles rather than the stagnant beam of light in church that day, I realized the point: I need to focus on the promises that are constantly true and at work, not the stagnant, overwhelming circumstance I found myself in.
Now, I never would have reached this resolve with my circumstance if it weren’t for the people that God has blessed me with that surround me, check in on me, and pray for me. I’m confident in that. I’m confident that had I kept the anger or the hurting or the bitterness bottled inside, I never would have realized that God was working in that brokenness to heal me completely. I would have become sarcastic and cold, even removed from friends and, if I’m being vulnerable, I would have become an anxiety-stricken puddle had I feared shame more than I desired genuine conversation. Even more, had I not been vulnerable enough to relinquish my iron-grip on those angry, hurting, bitter parts of myself to God, trusting that He would turn them into good, how could he have turned my own stubborn free will into the light I now find myself in? That is why vulnerability rocks.
Lastly, What better example of vulnerability is there than Jesus Christ himself? The God that knows all, knew that taking on human flesh would result in hatred, betrayal, temptation, slander, and ultimately his death on a cross, yet He loved us anyway. He loved us though Judas betrayed Him. He loved us though Peter rejected Him. He loved us though billions of us turned away. He loved us though we make decisions, laws, and whole communities of people against His will. He loved us though we crucified Him.
Knowing you could get hurt and loving, caring, and sharing anyway. That is loving vulnerably, folks. Not only did Christ know He could get hurt, He knew He would get hurt – and He loved, loves, and will love us anyway.
So maybe this means you open up to someone. Maybe that someone is God. If anything at all, just know that vulnerability is tough as frick, but it bears more freedom than any fear should ever restrain you from. Love vulnerably. Be vulnerable. Just like God did for us. While we failed Him and He knew we would, we can be sure that He will never fail us because He’s a vulnerable, risk-taking, loving God.
“But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:5-6)