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Aug22ThuWhy vulnerability is key to the Christian life. August 22, 2019 by Captain Laura Van Schaick
When I was in high school, I joined the swim team. I wasn’t a strong swimmer, but I needed a sport on my resumé if I was going to qualify for scholarships. So I tucked my long hair into a swim cap and hopped in the pool. I qualified for the team because they were desperate for participants. My coach assigned me the 100-metre breast stroke. I came last almost every race, but each and every time, I got off the blocks.
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I resonated with bestselling author Brené Brown’s story of her daughter’s struggle with the 100-metre breast stroke in the Netflix special The Call To Courage. Vulnerability, Brown shares, involves exposing yourself emotionally at the risk of getting hurt. At my swim meets, I risked being teased for my poor performance. I never did excel at the sport, but rather than attracting ridicule, I succeeded in making lifelong friends.
Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability is one of the most watched of all time. In it, she identifies vulnerability—the willingness to try something even when there is no guarantee of a positive outcome—as the key to living a whole-hearted life.
This is especially important when it comes to relationships—the thing that makes us uniquely human. Vulnerability in relationships, Brown says, requires three things:
Courage—the ability to tell the story of who we are, including imperfections.
Compassion—being kind to ourselves and to others, accepting imperfections.
Connection—an authenticity that releases any expectation of who we should be.
Becoming a Christian requires vulnerability, because Christianity is all about relationship—relationship with God and with others.
Becoming a Christian requires admitting our sinful tendencies. We are imperfect people; all of us have done things to harm the perfect world God created. Acknowledging this leads us to a place where we can admit our need of the saving grace of Jesus. It requires the courage to tell God our story, even the ugly parts, and to repent of our wrongdoings. This is courage.
Becoming a Christian requires being kind to ourselves and to others. It requires coming to a place where we not only acknowledge our need of salvation, but feel worthy and willing to accept the love of God and desire to share that love with other imperfect people. This is compassion.
Becoming a Christian requires taking seriously Jesus’ call to love others and to make disciples. It requires seeking out authentic relationships, letting go of who we thought we should be and embracing who we are as children of God. This is connection.
As Brown says, “To practise courage, compassion and connection is to look at life and say, ‘I’m all in.’ ” Authentic Christianity—being “all in” for Jesus—should be infused with vulnerability:
- When we evangelize, we do so with the courage to authentically share the story of Jesus’ presence in our lives without knowing if our efforts will be embraced or rejected.
- When we pray for someone, or ask for prayer in return, we share our imperfect story and acknowledge our need of compassion and connection.
- When we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, we let go of any expectations of how we thought our days would turn out and follow God’s call on our lives.
Each of these are examples of vulnerability, and they are all marks of a vibrant spirituality.
Getting off the starting block at a swim meet required me to be vulnerable. I risked failure. But in a much greater way, so did accepting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, sharing my faith with family and friends, and accepting the call to officership. If I hadn’t risked being vulnerable, I would have missed out on the greatest adventure I could ever have imagined—living my life for God and in the service of others.
If you want to have a real connection with God and with those around you, embrace vulnerability. We were created for the purpose of connection with God and with others, and openness to risk allows us to achieve this in full. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.
Captain Laura Van Schaick is the women’s ministries program and resource officer.
Photo: © jacoblund/iStock.com