Friday, January 7, 2011

When God became Vulnerable - A Reflection

A deep sense of connection just might be humanity’s deepest need. We need love as much as water to live. Belonging and feeling known and accepted by our community of neighbors, friends and family seems universal and, unfortunately, so easily manipulated. Street gangs, terrorist cells, child soldiers… there is no shortage of those exploiting this basic need for their own purposes.

But in most those cases the connection and belonging come at a costly price: the absorbing of the individual self into the group identity. The loss of mystery in a desert of harsh certainty makes us empty and unforgiving toward others who question our certainty. No wonder there. If the self is lost into the shallow of the great fish of group think, then even to be curious about the certainty professed by the group is to risk the connection to the group itself. Threaten, we submit to the group rather than be left alone. So, we are left with the devil’s choice. Either be alone, an island onto oneself, hungry for the love we all need, or betray ourselves to the group, trading our true self for a cheap belonging. Yet, is that all there is? How can we navigate between those life destroying cliffs of jagged rocks: on one side killing us with through despair and the other through false self of self deception, which wastes life. Where can love be found?

The question of how to be connected without losing self has been at the center of Dr. Brene Brown’s research. And her work is both enlightening and frightening. She found that the easiest way toward a finding our deepest need and maintaining our selves come from our willingness to be vulnerable. To open ourselves to love is to put down our defenses and admit weakness.


The way of the cross, of understanding our own vulnerability, our nakedness in the world seems to be the universal in finding and navigating love. Vulnerability is the seat of creativity, joy and love, but there are no guarantees. We will probably still bleed, maybe more so. People will wash there hands of us and give us over to be whipped.

I have had to come to grips with this vulnerability. Our son, a toddler of 21 months, has a genetic condition that has required brain surgery last April. ( He will have to have more surgery through his life, and there with no way of knowing how drastic his condition will be throughout his life, I am weak to help him. I offer him prayer and all of the support I can. I am pierced into the crossbeam of pain by own weakness, and bleed nightly for him. And yet, he brings me so much joy. Being vulnerable means accepting my own weakness and loving him as much as possible, without knowing the future. We are alive together as we, my wife, my son and myself, have journeyed through this medical wilderness. We have not been alone; there have been great dedicated doctors, (and some rather poor ones as well) loving friends, family, church community and so many that I could spend a year thanking all of those who have shown kindness. Yet, the pain of life remains.

Jesus, God incarnate, came into this world as a vulnerable baby. He left nailed on a cross. He returned in the blinding glory of Grace. I have learn that there is a strength in be vulnerable, the strength of Jesus’ cross. It has left me wondering if there could be a politics of vulnerability. Could there be a politics based on risk, love, of fully following Jesus. Between the shadows of despair and the darkness of deception is a little baby with three wise men bowing down in reverence. To be vulnerable is to look at the cross.

As our country has been force to look at its own vulnerability in economics, politics and future, we may need to embrace the gift of the cross. Resurrection comes through the cross that transcends our political bickering, and the only way is the way of loving enemy. Democrats would have to love Republicans. Republicans would have to love Democrats. Not easy, but Jesus never promised that the cross would be easy only that it is the way to true life.

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