I am someone who doesn’t like to rock the boat. I will listen to others all day, but when it comes to me opening up and pouring my problems upon someone else, I often fall silent. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable, at times, because I either feel like a burden or as if my display of imperfection will cause others to love me less and think less of me.
However, when we construct boundaries and refuse to be vulnerable, we are limiting the depth to which a relationship can go. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” How are we supposed to love God if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable with Him? How can we sincerely repent when we are fearful of bringing our sins and sincere selves to Christ?
Vulnerability in Christ
It is undeniable that we feel as if we must maintain a certain level of vulnerability in our relationships with friends or family because of the inevitability of conditional love. Everyone has a limit on how deep they can go because we are all human. This mindset often causes us to put a boundary on God’s love, whether we know it or not. We are so used to imperfect love that we put limitations on God’s perfect love because the possibility of someone loving us without fault, without reason, without limitations is so far outside our norm that we push it aside as just an idea, but not the actual truth. We have been so accustomed to human love that we often equate God’s love for us as equal to the love we experience from other humans. It is difficult for us to change this mindset. However, God’s love is vastly different and better than what we have experienced before. It is certain that no matter what we bring to God, no matter how big or shameful we think our sin or current circumstance is, it will result in unconditional love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Even in the deepest crevices of our souls where we hide our most shameful sins and deepest hurts, Christ ventures there eagerly. Where Christ meets the sinner is also where He builds the most meaningful and loving relationship we could ever experience. Christ did not come for those who have it all together. He came for those who are a wild, broken mess: the sinners. When we attempt to be perfect and build up walls around our sinfulness, we are shutting out the only One who can rectify our wrongs and redeem and sanctify us. We are shutting out the only One who knows every wrong, yet loves us greater nevertheless. In His boundless mercy, we are enabled to be vulnerable without judgment and with unwavering love. We can open up to Christ about anything and everything. Vulnerability in Christ is the most beautiful and freeing thing.
Recently, I read Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly, which goes in-depth into Christ’s description of His own heart as “gentle and lowly” (Matthew 11:29). If Christ describes His own heart as gentle and lowly, then we have assurance as believers that He will treat us gently no matter what we bring to Him in our vulnerability.
That God is rich in mercy means your regions of deepest shame and regret are now hotels through which divine mercy abides. It means the things about you that make you cringe most, make him hug hardest. It means his mercy is not calculating and cautious, like ours. It is unrestrained, flood-like, sweeping, magnanimous. It means our haunting shame is not a problem for him, but the very thing he loves most to work with. It means our sins do not cause his love to take a hit. Our sins cause his love to surge forward all the more. It means on that day when we stand before him, quietly, unhurriedly, we will weep with relief, shocked at how impoverished a view of his mercy-rich heart we had. – Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly
Vulnerability in Action
Establishing the necessity and beauty of vulnerability in Christ demands it be put into action. When we pray, we must be aware of the heart behind our prayer and what we are bringing to the Lord. Yes, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and knows the thoughts and unspoken groaning of our hearts (Romans 8:26-27). But, the intentionality of our prayers and the words we decide to say are still important. When we approach prayer, do we have the mindset of checking it off our to-do list of the day and reciting pretty words (Matthew 6:7), or are we laying it all on Christ’s feet, desiring a true relationship with Him? Are we sincerely repenting or are we afraid to bring our sin and shame to Christ? When we approach prayer with vulnerability, we are opening ourselves up to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Christ through open, honest communication.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16
Vulnerability in the Community of Christ
Before coming to college, I did not really have a group of Christian girls that I felt like I could be completely vulnerable with, without the fear of being judged. Then, freshman year of college, I joined a college home group through my university. Throughout the past three years, these girls that I have walked alongside, have shown me the beauty and necessity of being vulnerable in a community of Christ-followers. They have shown me that it is better than okay to be vulnerable with one another and have responded with Christ’s love no matter what is said or confessed.
Being vulnerable with those you walk alongside in Christ enables room for accountability, growth, and love. I believe that one of the most important things we can do as believers is to invest in our relationships within the community of Christ through vulnerability. The more we open up with those we walk in faith with, the more we can be held accountable for our sinful struggles and goals to pursue Christ and His kingdom. It also enables us to guide and encourage one another in the foundation of the Gospel. I encourage everyone to join a bible study or home group through their university or church to invest in fellowship with other Christians and to walk life together.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. – Matthew 18:20
May we all wholly surrender every day to the beautiful vulnerability found in Christ.