Vulnerability, What does that mean, exactly? Basically, it means being open. Open to attack, open to criticism, opening our hearts to let others in. It’s risky. It’s a word we don’t like to be in our independent culture. We are taught at an early age to be independent, to find a job, move out on our own, to live our own lives. We are taught that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us. We are taught to hide our true feelings.
I grew up in the same town, the same house, for the first eighteen years of my life. I couldn’t wait to leave home and make my own way. I was convinced that was the way to happiness. I was not an unhappy child, but I wanted to be independent so fiercely. I had things to do and see and the whole world was at my fingertips.
I finally graduated from high school and was able to move away for college! I was so nervous and excited at the same time! While I didn’t move too far away (just 4 hours), it was far enough, for the moment. Ironically, as independent as I wanted to be, I probably cried for the first week of my college life. I was so homesick that I went home once a month for the first semester (plus I did not have any clean clothes to wear! Thanks for doing my laundry mom!).
Fast forward to college graduation! Once again, I was anxious to live on my own, live in my very own apartment, pay my own bills. What I wouldn’t give now to have my daddy pay my bills now! Sigh….
Clearly, I achieved the independence I wanted. I treaded the waters of college successfully, made some incredible friends and learned some new perspectives on life. I had the opportunity to study in Europe and backpack across that great continent! I had the opportunity to travel to Africa, where I spent six weeks working in a hospital helping the men, women, and children of Tanzania. I learned more in those six weeks about being content with what you have than I ever had in my young life.
Right after college, I moved to a big city and had a small apartment where I could walk to work, coffee shops, and more. That was everything I had dreamed of at that point of my life! I was a grown-up. I lived by myself for five years before I married my hubby (I did have a roommate for about a year or two). And I loved every minute of it (well, maybe not every minute, but I was content). I worked twelve hour night shifts, so I did many things alone: went to coffee shops, grocery shopping, mall shopping, ate alone at restaurants (though that was mostly fast food). I even went to museums, church, and movies by myself (though those were not my favorite things to do by myself).
All of the above has helped shape me to be the person I am today and has served me well when I needed to be independent. That stage of my life taught me how to do things I needed to be able to do by myself (pay bills, budget, change a tire, though, ashamedly, I have probably forgot that by now), check my oil, etc. I would not change any of my life experiences.
BUT, I spent so much time learning to be independent, I forgot what Jesus teaches about vulnerability. I fought vulnerability so much that I forgot that God made us to need each other. He made us a part of a whole. We forget that we Christians (and women especially) are supposed to be on the same team!
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of only one member, but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose. If we all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, thee are many parts, yet one body." 1Corinthians 12: 12-20
Jesus knew what it meant to be vulnerable. He knew what it meant to be alone, even with crying and screaming and gossiping crowds around him, even when he was constantly being interrupted. He knew what it meant to be criticized, laughed at, and beaten down. He knew what it meant to be exhausted but not sleeping. He knew what it meant to be talking and not heard. He knew what it meant to be vulnerable.
"And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well", And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in imself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" And his discipes said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you and yet you say, "Who touched me?" And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, "Daughter your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." Mark 5: 24-34
What if, like in this story, we were not afraid to ask for help or reach out to touch somebody? What if we remember we are on the same team? That life is bigger than we are. Life is bigger than the busy season of sleepless nights, potty training, temper tantrums, wiping runny noses, and dirty bottoms. This life is bigger than deadlines and all night study sessions and early morning classess. This life is bigger than sibling rivalry, living under your parents rules, and not being able to vote or drink or smoke (at least legally).
This life is about living life together. Let’s challenge ourselves to let our lives be about helping each other cherish the moments. Let’s learn from each other, be willing to be vulnerable and call on God and each other.
We are on the same team, and better yet, God is on our team. We cannot fail!
Know that you do not have to do it all by yourself!