It’s interesting how certain themes pop up continually throughout film, literature, and life. Reflections of certain ideas are seen in various art forms because they are continually relevant to us – they reveal elements of humanity, and people will always encounter them. One such idea has been presenting itself to me consistently over the past few weeks. It is one that deserves to be discussed, as it proves to be pertinent to life at a university. This idea is vulnerability.
This word gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles; we hear it in chapel, at church, and use it freely among our own companions. While the word may be overused, there is a tendency to allow the idea of vulnerability to remain cognitive without allowing the concept to connect emotionally and affect our lives. I am one who shies away from clichés, and I am guilty of shutting out ideas once I find that I have a firm intellectual grasp on them. Thankfully, my God has a way of breaking through the barriers of my mind by repeating ideas to me when there is more to be learned. Being the analytical student I am, I have learned to pay attention to motifs in literature, film, and life – where there is repetition, there is a profound meaning beneath the surface. Vulnerability is an idea that has been repeated in sermons, scripture, and conversations over the course of this semester, and I recently decided to allow this concept to resonate emotionally, rather than just cognitively. We should prayerfully and cautiously share our weaknesses in order to be held to a higher standard in our community, being constantly pushed toward Christ. Vulnerability is not a word to be used, but a habit to form and an emotional course to take.
As I worked through these thoughts with my roommates, I reached back into my mind to find the time I felt most vulnerable. An emotional connection with this idea was needed to breathe new life into this old, well-worn idea.
I thought back to the time I visited the zoo for the first time with my parents. I must have been about three years old, and I remember being amazed by the amount of people around me the entire day. At one point, I remember my parents taking me to an exhibit where I could approach an open pool to see clusters of starfish. I let go of my dad’s hand to push forward in the crowd and get a closer look, not thinking for one moment that I would lose my way. (Can you blame me? Starfish are awesome!)
Once I saw what I wanted to see, I reached beside me and clung to the nearest leg I could find without a second thought. I distinctly remember saying “Hi, Daddy,” only to hear “I’m not your father” in an unknown voice as a response. I looked up suddenly to discover that this wasn’t at all my dad, and beyond that, I had no idea where my parents were. I jumped back to look desperately up at the innumerable faces high above me, and couldn’t recognize a single one. I was confused, terrified, and felt completely exposed in my surroundings. Thankfully, my parents were quick to recover me, and my first completely vulnerable experience did not last long.
Looking back on this circumstance reminds me of what vulnerability actually is: visiting a place within you that is fragile, close to home, and takes effort to expose. Being transparent may be extremely difficult, and will require that you trust another with your thoughts and emotions.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12, “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 of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (English Standard Version). This is a passage many of us have heard before and may be well familiar with, but part of the beauty of scripture is that it has the power to resonate differently with us at varying points throughout life. God invites us to experience life with Him, and part of this includes accepting His companionship and Lordship and opening ourselves up to dialogue with Him – even in the areas that are emotionally vulnerable. He moves greatly when we are humbled and wants us to practice vulnerability as a means of relying more fully on Him.
This recap of a familiar idea and a practice of living it more fully has been quite the journey for me over the past few months. Praise be to my Creator for reestablishing a deeper level of intimacy in my life! Readers, He is big, He is good, and He loves us, and with that, I’ll leave you until next time.