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Vulnerability Gets Us to God’s Best

I’m writing this from Thailand. When I return home  from trips like this, Asha, our little Morky dog, invariably will greet me by laying on her back and showing her stomach. She waits for me to approach and scratch her. She connects with vulnerability. She’s saying, “You’re the alpha dog a…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I’m writing this from Thailand. When I return home  from trips like this, Asha, our little Morky dog, invariably will greet me by laying on her back and showing her stomach. She waits for me to approach and scratch her.

She connects with vulnerability. She’s saying, “You’re the alpha dog and I know my place in the pack.”

But that’s not how it typically works with humans. Vulnerability does not come naturally for most of us. If we feel insecure how do most of us respond? We respond defensively. We push back.

In a world where survival was an everyday question, maybe this made sense. But it doesn’t get us to God’s best in today’s world. These days, we need more. We need to embrace vulnerability.

What vulnerability does

This needs to be the new normal in church.  This is part of the good news that Jesus preached. His path of vulnerability may be a narrow one, but it is the path leading to abundant life. It may be rare, but it is powerful. It is the power that our heroes have tapped into. Think of Gandhi and Mandela, and King. They all projected power from a place of weakness.

Here is what they discovered about vulnerability:

It defuses shame

It connects us

It reinforces safety

It makes intimacy possible

It builds trust

There is a great reservoir of grace awaiting those of you who will risk trusting your brothers and sisters with your secrets. 

Vulnerability & revival

Revival is a rediscovery of intimacy with the Father. My limited experience with revival has always started with vulnerability. Consider the notion that your confession of sin does nothing to clean you up. Jesus already did that. What your confession does is put you in agreement with God. As a flawed human, you are already in a vulnerable place.

When we confess our sins, we affirm that place of weakness; we agree with God about the divine order of creation.

Confess your failings publicly and a chain reaction sometimes ensues. The scent of freedom in the air can become contagious. I have seen people begin running to Jesus with the most tawdry and disgusting issues, issues that had kept them in bondage, captives to shame.

In one revival I witnessed four years ago, we watched as one by one, Jesus set each person deliciously free from the power of death operating in their lives. Waves of tears ensued; tears of repentance followed by tears of unrestrained joy.

And when the tide of vulnerability that had unleashed such waves of revival at last began to ebb, there seemed to be a sacred residue in the room – a sprinkling of spiritual stardust that left us reluctant to speak, knowing that any words about life beyond those walls would be banal and fall flat.

It’s a paradox that true power is found through vulnerability. It’s in our weakness that God makes us strong. The power of God comes on those who posture themselves in meekness. 

Vulnerability precedes all revival and all forms of intimacy. It is there at the start of every true community. It is part of the Gospel message that has fallen out of favor in a culture that insists on respect. 

For those of us who follow Jesus, it is the path of salvation that leads to the Kingdom coming.

Comments (12)

  • you have no idea how much this just goes with everything in my life right now from my womens bible study to the sermons on sunday to my life group. thank you so much for sharing

  • Thanks, Seth. The principle is simple yet profoundly difficult for the many reasons we know. Two in particular come to mind. First, the life narrative for some people has had them deeply wounded at some point in settings where trust should have been a given. Verbal, physical, sexual and even religious abuse fortifies a thick lizard skin which is an involuntary effort to avoid feeling particular pains again. To be vulnerable means shedding the skin revealing the pink possibilities of being sadly hurt–again. There is no way around this. The woman at the well was vulnerable and there was only one person who was a trusted harbor to unpack the detritus of her life. Hence the story. A second reality is that for vulnerability to be sustained an incubus of committed, caring and also self revealing people need to be the tribe of welcoming admission. When reciprocity doesn’t exist then a power structure has been defined. That is appropriate in settings like my Catholic confession, a session with a therapist or interaction say with a spiritual leader although the latter is also fraught with frayed possibilities like emotional and sexual abuse. You have heard me relate the story of being with what at the time were what I believed were our closest married couple friends in Colorado. We socialized weekly and my yearning was for us to move deeper into a fellowship of vulnerability so one evening after magnificent mirth, jovial jousting all lubricated with God’s libations we sat for our epilogue and after a few moments I intoned…”Hey. Before we go I want to share a few things that have been on my heart and some for which prayer is requested.” I then proceeded to unpack a few locked doors revealing a struggle or two in my life. It was not inappropriate or maudlin. Finishing I looked around our couched circle having offered my vulnerable best and asked “What about you? Where can I be praying for hard things in your journey?” Best friends. All followers of Jesus. Safe setting. You know what the answer was? Silence. Leading me to believe in that moment the only soul blisters needing the Balm of Gilead was me. My metaphorical pants had been dropped to my ankles in the hard stuff of life was there in all her glory. That is what you’d call a vulnerability quencher. Humbly, I didn’t try again anytime soon.

    • It takes courage when going into new environment and not knowing how others will respond. Ultimately, we have only one safe place – God himself and what he thinks of us.

  • Sharing my story in the next week as part of our Life Group study. Feeling very anxious. This is way out of my comfort zone.

  • Its a critical principle. One I’ve strived to model my whole adult life. I’m thankful God taught me its importance at a young age.

  • I know God is telling me to share my story in my life group. I have yet to do it, I will keep u need my prayers bc I know how much courage this is taking

  • I know God is telling me to share my story in my life group. I have yet to do it, I will keep u need my prayers bc I know how much courage this is taking

  • Thanks Seth. Agreed. Looking forward to connecting after you get back, hug grandbabies, do your Saint Francis impersonation with the canine friend and embrace your family again. Love you. Always.

  • These words and all of your recent blogs about vulnerability mean so much more because I heard you step into vulnerability and repentance twice at the Awakening a month ago.
    Those times showed me that you really believe what you’re talking about in these blogs.
    Thank you for being an example of your own message. You’re showing me a kind of leadership that I want to follow and model.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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