Born to a poor family, in a time of spiritual and political oppression, Jesus demonstrated what it looks like to lean in vulnerably. In opening himself to people, he experienced misunderstanding, betrayal, desertion, and rejection. He endured it all so that we could be connected to God.
Sometimes, in order to lean in, rather than us moving further into others’ stories, we need to invite them deeper into ours. To do that, we must be vulnerable.
What is vulnerability?
The word vulnerable comes from the Latin, “vulnerare” which means, “to be wounded,” or “to be able to be wounded.” Put that way, it’s easy to see why so many of us shy away from it.
Vulnerability is a brave act. It requires risk.
So why be vulnerable?
Connection is why vulnerability is so important. We were made for connection with God and others. I mentioned last week during the sermon that when we first moved to Orlando, I was in a process group called Connections. We spent time in that group learning to practice empathy, which was a healing process. But that empathy would have been difficult to extend if none of us had been willing to be vulnerable enough to share our stories, particularly those stories that involved pain, shame, guilt, and fear.
For me, it was a struggle. I want people to think of me as someone who is real and vulnerable, but I would like the real, vulnerable me to look put together, emotionally stable, never too needy. The reality is that our real selves are messy. We lock away that which we think is unacceptable to the world in dark closets deep in our hearts, out of fear of rejection. Bringing those parts into the light is hard.
So each week, I went to that group determined that I would hold it together. I wanted to hold in my emotions and my tears so that the other women wouldn’t reject me. But there was too much hurt inside me from our transition for me to stay composed, especially when they invited me to share it with such empathy. And you know what I found? They actually moved toward me more when I was vulnerable. It strengthened our relationships. I felt seen, known, and loved.
Tim Keller says, ““To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” We cannot be fully known and loved if we are unwilling to be vulnerable with at least one other person.
How do we embrace vulnerability?
I know I could not have gone to that group each week, taking steps to share my story bit by bit with others, unless I was secure in God’s love for me. While we seek connection with others, we have to remember that we are humans who love imperfectly; not everyone will receive us and love us as well as we would like. We lean in to others vulnerably, remembering that ultimately we are not dependent on them to give us love. Author Paula Reinhart says, “You can’t really love people well unless you are at home in your own soul. You will simply be too afraid.” When we know and rest in God’s love, we can risk moving toward others.
Sometimes when people talk about being vulnerable, a fear arises that we must share everything with everyone. That’s not what we’re called to do. But it is important for each of us to have at least one person who knows everything about us. I find it helpful, if I am struggling with an issue, to ask God, “Who should I share this with and how?” Vulnerability is a choice, and it can begin with simply finding one person we can share with.
Vulnerability invites vulnerability. If we want to lean in to loving others well, we must courageously seek opportunities to open up to others, to allow them to see who we really are- our true selves who are deeply loved by God just as we are. As we do, we encourage others to do the same with us, and as Keller says, that’s, “a lot like being loved by God.” Let us lean in to loving like He does.
What fears do you have about being vulnerable?
When have you had a positive experience with being vulnerable?
How did it impact your relationship?
Who is the person or people you feel you can be vulnerable with?
What step could you take this week to lean in to a relationship in your life vulnerably?