Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.
I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God. From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:
We are hardwired as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].
Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.
Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.
Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging, and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:
- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
- Romans 7:23-24
- 2 Corinthians 13:4
- James 5:16
- 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
- 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
- 2 Corinthians 4: 7
If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives. I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV
The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)
I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am
P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here