When I first started writing devotionals for church, I decided to write about what God was teaching me. They say to write what you know. It has been beautiful to see how He has highlighted and clarified lessons as the day for submitting the devotional’s posting draws near. He always comes through, even if it is at the last minute. In many ways, it has helped me process and put words to concepts and emotions that have been swirling around in my head and heart for the past month. It is a flash of light, illuminating the last several steps I have taken. It is a momentary lifting of the fog, enabling me to get my bearings before I continue onwards. These revelations are both humbling and encouraging. They are humbling; I see the footsteps going forwards, backwards, and, in some places, just in circles; I see that I still have so far to go; I see parts of the path that are well-worn, testaments that I have walked those lessons time and time again. They are encouraging; I see how far I’ve come; I see the swamps and pits and obstacles that seemed as though they would swallow me, but that He brought me through; I see His footsteps, reminders that I do not walk alone; I see moments that seemed so random at the time, but now I notice key words and phrases, a common thread connecting them all. Each moment of clarity, of light, is a treasured gift.
I said before that sometimes it feels like He brings a word or concept to mind at the last minute. This time was one of those times. I was sitting on my couch Monday night, drawing a blank. I thought over the events of the past month. What had He been teaching me? What did He want me to share? I could not distinguish any one thing. But then, in a moment of quiet, a concept was illuminated in my mind—vulnerability.
I was talking with a friend last year, about how easy it is to wear masks so that people don’t know what is actually going on in your heart. Here we are almost a year later, and I find myself pulling on my mask again—and it is not the physical one I wear to protect myself and others in a global pandemic. I never leave home without it, and that started years before it was governmentally mandated. I wear it to protect myself and others, not from a virus, but from the mess I am underneath. I’ll be the first to say that vulnerability is one of my greatest fears. I have so many reasons (quite good reasons in my mind) to avoid being vulnerable. These are the main reasons why I avoid vulnerability:
- I’m afraid of setting up my problems as bigger or harder than someone else’s.
- I’m afraid of coming across as selfish, self-centered, self-focused, of being viewed as only seeing my problems with little to no sympathy for the problems and pains of others.
- I’m afraid people will find out how messy I am and give me up because it’s too much to handle or too hard to solve.
- I’m afraid that people will look at me and my pain as a problem to solve, rather than a hurting human being.
- I’m afraid people would judge me and my status as a Christian if they knew the sin I struggle with. Deep down I believe the lie that you have to have it all together if you are a Christian. If you don’t, that must mean you don’t pray hard or often enough. Or maybe you don’t have enough faith. Or enough penitence over your sin. Or enough time reading the Word. A faithful Christian does not have an anger issue. A faithful Christian does not experience doubt.
- It makes me feel weak when I want to feel strong.
- It makes me feel naive and childish when I want to feel competent and mature.
- It makes me feel like a burden when I want to help carry other people’s burdens.
I could go on. Pastor Stan once said in a sermon, “This verse could die the death of a thousand qualifiers.” That is how I feel about being vulnerable. Being vulnerable could die the death of a thousand qualifiers. It’s uncomfortable and humbling and can feel shameful to reveal the true state of my heart and life, for it exposes the darkness that is there. Is it easy? Absolutely not. The enemy wants me to keep to myself, and wants you to keep to yourself. He wants you to cover up your sin and feel the full weight of the shame that comes from the fact that you still fight that sin. He wants to isolate you, to neutralize you, to bury you. He wants you to believe that you are not good enough for God’s followers because the next step is to convince you that you are not good enough for God. He whispers in your ear that you are too far gone, too messy, too weak to be loved, saved, or wanted.
It is true—being vulnerable admits that you are messy and weak and sinful. It is also true that being vulnerable brings healing and restoration and a beautiful depth to relationships. Is it easy? No, it is not. But it is worth it, and here is why.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16
Vulnerability with our brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the main ways we combat the lies, accusations, and shaming from the enemy. When we confess our sins to one another, it shines the bright light of repentance and forgiveness in our hearts, exposing the sin and darkness that is there. It is our spiritual brothers and sisters reaching out as the hands and feet of Jesus, touching our diseased, blinded, and crippled souls, bringing healing and restoration that can only come from Him. Personally, I know I get so caught up in my own thoughts and fears when I keep them to myself, but when I speak my thoughts out loud, I notice the pettiness and lies, and the ones I do not notice are caught by my friend. They give me a perspective I cannot or do not want to see. Like a gardener clearing vines from a tree, a friend cuts through the lies with the Truth.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
For the Christian, accountability is very important, both to continue in love and good works, and to desist from sinful and selfish ways. But how can we hold each other accountable if we do not share the real us? That is why James tells us to be honest with each other. Vulnerability is a two-way street. You can’t expect others to be vulnerable with you if you never let your walls down, regardless of how good of a listener you are or how much you sympathize with them. You have to choose vulnerability. You have to choose to take the mask off, to let the wall down. And you have to wait patiently for others to take off their mask—you can’t force someone to confide in you. Notice also that Paul says in Galatians to hold each other accountable in a spirit of gentleness and with humility. We may one day be the person holding a brother or sister accountable, and the next day we may be the person being held accountable.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:12-17
Vulnerability goes hand in hand with community and Colossians 3 outlines what it looks like to live in that community. In that community there is: humility, forgiveness, thanksgiving, singing, teaching, peace, compassion, unity, kindness, love—and that is just one passage. There are many more passages where God adds to this list. Living in an honest community combats comparison, loneliness, discontentment, and judgement. It produces a depth to relationships that cannot be found anywhere else. It does not come in a week or a month, and it does not come by merely wishing it into existence. True community and vulnerability require much of us but I believe the cost is worth it. Being open is not a weakness but a strength, for it goes against our sin natures and we have to fight for openness. That is why we all the more need to turn to each other and share how we are really doing.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
Vulnerability eases our burdens. No longer do we have to struggle silently through trials and temptations. No longer do we have to hold it together in order to impress others. Why go into battle alone when you have a host of fellow warriors to go with you? Why struggle and weep alone when you have a family of brothers and sisters to support you? Why celebrate alone when you have a group of fellow believers to rejoice with you?
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of trying to go it alone. I’m tired of trying to measure up to an impossible standard. I’m tired of trying to carry what I was never meant to carry alone. I don’t have to do life alone, and neither do you. God knew we wouldn’t be able to and so He richly blessed us with each other. I know it is daunting to think of being all of the real you. I know it is terrifying to think of confessing your sin to a fellow believer. I know it is humbling to think of admitting you do not have it all together. I completely understand. But I believe it is worth the discomfort and the cost. It is worth the energy and the fight. It cannot be accomplished in a week or a month, but I am here for the long haul, and I am so glad I don’t have to haul alone. Will you join me?