By Leslie Colaw
Think of the most vulnerable places in your heart. The weak spots, the deepest wounds you carry. Our instinct most often is to guard and conceal those places. We don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. Revealing our weakness feels risky. The reality is many of us have experienced pain as a result of our vulnerability.
A few months ago I was watching a Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability” with Brené Brown. Really interesting, I recommend watching. Here’s the gist…Brené, a qualitative researcher, was working to uncover what it is that allows people to find a strong sense of belonging and connection. In other words, what do people with fulfilling relationships have in common? After six years of research and thousands of interviews, what her findings came down to was this – vulnerability.
People with real, authentic connection in their relationships fully embraced vulnerability. They saw it as necessary.
I like her definition of vulnerability – she says it is the willingness to be seen. She shares openly about her reaction to this finding. She didn’t like it. She didn’t want to accept it. She wanted to believe she could outsmart vulnerability. Like many of us, she was uncomfortable with the idea that it is necessary, but she couldn’t deny what the research was saying.
A thought struck me as I was watching. This was not a Christian research project, there is nothing to indicate that Brené herself is a Christian, but what stood out to me was the parallel between this concept of the power of vulnerability and the Biblical story. When we think of the way Jesus came to us, as a tiny human baby, born in a barn to a very ordinary young couple, we realize how vulnerable he made himself. Through the life of Jesus, God allowed himself to be seen. This display of vulnerability is a necessary component in God’s story.
This is incredibly powerful. Because Jesus made himself vulnerable it means he can sympathize with us.
He understands weakness, knows what it is to wear human flesh. Hebrews tells us he is able to sympathize with us because he suffered (Heb. 2:18) and was tempted in every way we are (Heb. 4:15). Because of this, in him we find mercy and grace. We can approach him without trepidation because we know he looks on us with compassion. He understands what we wrestle with! In fact, he understands temptation like none other. In the words of C.S. Lewis, Jesus “was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.” Never can we say to him, “You don’t understand!”
Bring to mind again those deep wounds you carry. When you encounter someone with similar wounds, someone walking the same difficult road that you have walked, are you not stirred to compassion? Is it not your desire to help and encourage them? Jesus has this same heart for us. Because he has walked the same road we walk, he is able to look on us with tender compassion and understanding. He too has experienced pain as a result of being vulnerable.
Hebrews 5 talks about the role of a high priest, which in the Old Testament was one appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God. A high priest was able to deal gently with the wayward because of his own weakness, and he was obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people. Jesus is the ultimate High Priest. Only, in him, there is no sin, and he was under no obligation to offer a sacrifice. He MADE himself weak, he CHOSE to offer sacrifice on our behalf. God appointed him, and he went willingly. He did not exalt himself to be made high priest (Heb. 5:5), he humbled himself as the sacrificial lamb. Not only did he offer the sacrifice for our sins as a high priest does, he BECAME the sacrifice. He is the only High Priest who could do this because he is the only one who is perfect, and he was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).
Because he is without sin, he is our source of salvation, and because of his suffering, he is also our source of mercy.
We tend to picture him as one who looks down on us with disappointment. We should rather think of him as one who looks eye to eye with us and says, “I get it.” This is why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16). He is both our perfect Savior and sympathizing friend.
As we learn from Brené’s research findings, vulnerability is the key to human connection.
The vulnerability of Christ is also the key to our connection with God.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers for us. In his period of human weakness, he interceded for us and was heard because of his obedience (Heb. 5:7). He still continues to do this today and will ultimately do so on our behalf when we stand before God. Because of his obedience and willingness to be vulnerable he serves as our connection, our bridge to God. He is our connecting point.
What does this mean for us and how we live? How does vulnerability become powerful in us? We do not like our vulnerability, our weakness. We mask it, we run from it, we plead with God to remove it.
We want his power to work in us without the weakness. But that’s not how it works. Apparently, not even for his own Son.
So we look to the example of the Son. We must be willing to take on weakness, to embrace vulnerability, to see it as necessary. In this way God’s power will be made perfect in us. In this way we can sympathize with others in their weakness. If we allow ourselves to be seen, we can experience real connection, with others and with God. We can even be a source of connection between others and God, just as Christ is.
While transparency is essential, embracing vulnerability does not necessarily mean revealing all our flaws to everyone. It is more about seeing our weakness from a new perspective.
It is willingly accepting weakness so that God’s power can be made visible through us. So that HE can be seen.
We want God to use us in a powerful way, but we don’t want to have to operate out of a place of weakness. But this is exactly what Jesus did. He took on vulnerability, allowed himself to be made weak so that the power of God would be made manifest through him.
So let your weakness shine. Remove the mask, let the walls fall down, allow yourself to be seen. May your life serve as a connecting point between others and God. Embrace the power of vulnerability.