Friday, May 12, 2017

On Vulnerability

Relationship is an exercise in mutual vulnerability. It has to be. It is this idea that to be in relationship, to truly be in relationship, a man must both be known and also know. Without both, he only sets himself up for the pain of betrayal.

For example, say that you have a friend who cares deeply for you, but you know very little about her. The more you share your life with her, the more it becomes apparent that she has a deep, profound need for worry in her life. And caring about you fills that need for her. Suddenly, you start choosing your words carefully, pulling back from intimacy, because it becomes quite obvious that what she desires is not a relationship with you but something persistent to worry about. If the vulnerability had been reciprocal, you would have known this need of hers before you shared your life, and the relationship could have been structured differently so as to be human-centered, not issue-centered, where you could both be honored and respected. 

Or say that there is a man who keeps working his way into your affairs. You think it is out of his deep, true concern for you, and so you share more and more and invite him deeper in. As time goes by, it becomes apparent that he doesn't as much care for you as he bases his own self-worth on being "in the know" - on having details about persons and things that he can use to demonstrate his own social connectedness and, in his mind, importance. If the vulnerability had been reciprocal, you would have known his insecurity from the very beginning and been able to structure the relationship in such a way that it was fulfilling for both of you, not just him.

Our deepest wounds come from these kinds of encounters, and I am sure that as you read these two very generalized descriptions, you are thinking of persons in your own life who seemed to desire relationship with you, but because of their own issues that they were not vulnerable with in return, you have come to feel used in some way. Deceived. Betrayed. 

It's a terrible feeling.

Now, hear me when I say this because it is important: none of this is meant to be a judgment on those persons who have used, deceived, betrayed, and hurt us. It can't be. Because every single one of us has these kinds of issues in our own life. Every single one of us is just as prone to this kind of use, deception, betrayal, and hurt. It's why we have to be vulnerable with one another - vulnerable enough not only to say, "This is what I struggle with," but also to say, "And this is how that may hurt you." 

But I say all that to say this - there is one relationship in which we can be truly vulnerable because the other has already been completely vulnerable with us - our relationship with God. 

We so often talk about how Jesus came down in order to become our perfect, atoning sacrifice. About how nothing less than the perfect Son of God would be acceptable for the redemption of our sins. About how it was necessary for Jesus to assume the flesh in order to redeem the flesh. And all of that is true.

But it's also true that God came in human form to be vulnerable with us, to show us His truest self and to demonstrate that He's not going to use, deceive, betray or hurt us. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus did not demand, but always accepted, men's offerings. He received them graciously and never turned them back against the man. He didn't use them for gossip or for soothing the raw places in His own soul. 

Rather, He showed, at every turn, how He treasured whatever it was that He was given, how He honored the offerings of men. He showed how He wove in the stories of others with His own holy threads, and there is not one person in all of Scripture who would turn to a friend and say, "I just feel so betrayed by Him. I can't believe He would do that to me!" 

He came to show us that He would never do that to us. He doesn't need to. And we can be sure of this, since He has shown us the very real depths of who He is. He has been vulnerable with us.

Therefore, we can be vulnerable with Him. 

And we must be. For all real relationship depends upon this: that we be vulnerable with one another, that we be who we are and understand who the other is. That we both know and be known. 

Christ shows us well how this is done, this beautiful Christ who knows us to the depth of our being and reveals to us the depth of His. 

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