Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Beauty of Vulnerability

Imagine that you were hired to build a bridge across a large river. You're offered all of the supplies and equipment you need plus a large sum of money to complete the task. The trouble is, you’re the only one allowed to develop the plans for this project and you’ve never built a bridge of any size before. There are years of study and apprenticeship required to engineer a bridge and undertake such an enormous building project, yet your hope is that you’ll figure it out as you go along, on your own, without the need for any help.  

Of course this is ridiculous.  You would never risk your personal safety, the safety of your work crew, or the masses of people who would cross this bridge on a daily basis. I’m sure you’d get the help and direction that you needed, or acquire an engineering degree before you started.

Navigating life is much more complex than bridge building, yet we often feel that we should figure it out on our own, without the help and guidance of anyone else.  We hope that we can solve the mysteries as we go along.  We value our own independence, in fact most of the world values independence.  We teach our children to be independent and cheer them on when they perform tasks on their own.  When we create a resume for a new job, we describe ourselves as “independent thinkers” and “problem solvers.”  Sometimes, as much as we hate to admit this, when someone asks for our help with a menial task, we might grumble, thinking they should be able to get it done without help. 

Yes, the world values independence but God values dependence on Him and interdependence on the body of Christ that He’s provided. Think back to Genesis 2:18 when God created woman.  “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.’” (HCSB)  The Hebrew word for helper derives from a word meaning to protect, to surround, to aid. A body of Christ that is interdependent upon one another offers protection.   

Protection can come from our sisters in Christ who help us resist temptation that leads to destruction… but only if we will allow it. So often we avoid the risk of making ourselves transparent with others.  But when we take the risk, blessings often follow.  I’m not advocating church-wide broadcasts of our most private temptations, but it is healthy and wise to have a few, close people in our lives who know every single thing there is to know about us.  When we allow ourselves to be completely transparent with a trusted few individuals, we have greater protection to stand firm against the schemes of the enemy. Remember, he is prowling around like a lion waiting to devour us.

Our trusted companions can easily recognize when temptation seizes us, and they can help us resist that temptation, take every thought captive, or immediately do an about face and head toward safety instead of danger.  I have a few people like that in my life, who can take one look into my eyes and know I’m struggling with something.  Even when I don’t wish to talk about it, these few people often pester me (yes PESTER me) until I share my thoughts.  And then… they carry the burden with me. There are times I wish I could run from them, but in the end, I deeply value their friendship and their unrelenting way of keeping me on the right track. I love them immensely.

This level of companionship took time to develop.  In most cases it took years, if not decades, of baby steps toward deeper vulnerability.  We invested in friendship to develop a trust strong enough to talk about the really hard things.  (In rare times, one in particular, trust was established much more quickly – almost in a supernatural manner, but that is by no means typical and such situations should be handled carefully and covered in unceasing prayer.)  These trusted friends hold me accountable and refuse to allow me to walk a dangerous path.  Not by bossing me around or setting an expectation of daily check-ins, but by knowing me well enough to pick up even the slightest scent of trouble and then pursuing it and helping to root it out. 

I could have kept my walls up with these friends.  I could have maintained my independence and continued to believe I could navigate this life all by myself.  Instead, I risked vulnerability.  I allowed a few people to get to know me.  I didn’t just allow them to know what I wanted them to know, I shared it all – even the ugliest, most embarrassing and shameful stuff that’s deep inside of me.  I’ll tell you that I expected every one of them to run for cover.  When they saw what the real me looks like, I fully anticipated that they’d never want to speak to me again.  That was the case for some.  Not all of my risks turned out well.  But some took it as an opportunity to love me deeper and walk alongside me down long roads of distress.  I pray they feel I’ve done the same for them.

There’s risk in vulnerability, but until we take those first steps of baring it all and exposing the truth, we’ll never know the blessing that God has in store for those who walk through life together – in community.  I encourage you: don’t miss the blessing because you’re too afraid to risk.  Step out in faith.  Pray for God to reveal your trusted companions.  Act on His leading and leave the results and the consequences in His loving, capable hands.

I’ll leave you with Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (HCSB).

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28