The Power of Vulnerability
For much of my life I have fought against the very thing that God wanted from me. He wanted me to recognize that, in the context of the universe, I am incredibly small and frail. In the context of our world with its wars, climate change and violence, we are all vulnerable.
But instead of protecting ourselves, he wanted me as he wants us all, to own it and to embrace it.
I need your weakness and you need mine
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned I will never get to a place of deep friendship with others from a place of strength. To get to intimacy, I’ve got to tap into and share my weakness. Often we need one another’s weakness more than we need one another’s strength.
When I share my weakness with you, I’m hoping that you will respond in a similar way. From that place of shared weakness, maybe I won’t feel so isolated. Maybe in that place, our hearts will touch.
And that’s why we have to harness the power of vulnerability. Vulnerability puts us in a posture to receive grace and to connect with others who need grace from us. Vulnerability sets the table for intimacy.
I posted something about vulnerability on Facebook and one of my friends responded by wondering if there was any biblical basis for understanding vulnerability. My answer pointed her to Jesus’ life and ministry.
Jesus lived a vulnerable life
Jesus was born into a vulnerable body to a vulnerable young couple in a vulnerable place in a vulnerable time and space in history. Consider: Jesus, the son of God, was born in a baby’s body, to parents away from home in a dirty barn in a country under the thumb of a despotic empire. What a picture of vulnerability!
When he hung up his carpenter’s apron for the last time, he didn’t ascend to a throne to rule his kingdom. He got baptized and then went to the desert, away from every comfort, away from food and water. And there in that vulnerable condition, he did battle with his enemy.
Jesus’ began his public ministry by declaring it was not the religious, but the vulnerable who would receive his ministry. Quoting Isaiah 61, he said he would bring hope to the “poor, the blind, the prisoner, and the oppressed.” (Luke 4)
Preaching on the mountainside, he elaborated on the theme. It’s the “discouraged, the sorrowful, the hungry, the hated and rejected” who are candidates for grace. (Luke 6:20-22).
Or look at Jesus’ whole way of ministry – he travels with nothing. He doesn’t even carry a pillow. If he’s going to sleep in a bed, it’s going to be as a guest. If he’s going to eat, it will be based on whatever God provides that day. Jesus daily makes himself vulnerable.
From that place of weakness, Jesus begins to set the captives free. Jesus holds the key to every ankle chain and every prison door restraining us.
This is such a huge and obvious thing, it’s amazing that so many Christian leaders miss it and instead embrace all the trappings of power and entitlement. Leaders need to regularly touch the humanity of those who follow them. They need to lead with weakness.
The Power of vulnerability
Vulnerability is not easy, but it is necessary if we are to get to shared truth and from there to trust.
Years ago when I was leading a ministry staff retreat, I could sense that many of the staff were in a bad place. They were burned out from a summer of ministry. One lady in particular seemed to have it out for me. I prayed about her. She was critical of me and might have been taking others down with her attitude.
“God, what should I do?” I asked.
“You should wash her feet,” he replied.
And when I did so, it changed the atmosphere of the meeting. Everything shifted from there. Showing my weakness allowed her to lower her defenses and see my humanity.
The world can be such a dangerous place. The response of many countries is to build their armies bigger. Jesus said, “there is a better way.” We are ultimately all deeply vulnerable – he asks us put our armor down and become touchable. If we embrace our weakness as a gift, we are not a threat to others. There is great power in vulnerability.