I was the student/athlete who brought in Christmas gifts for all my coaches and teachers growing up. It was great, until it went all wrong. I was a freshman and was coming out of the locker room after practice with the few gifts that my mom had stuffed in my gym bag for my coaches. Abruptly I encountered an upperclassman who said, “You bought the coaches Christmas gifts?!?! … Give them to me.” She took them from my hands and walked into the coach’s office and handed each of my coaches the gifts I had for them. She said, “Merry Christmas!”, they shared a special moment of joy and celebration together, and then she walked out. We both had the same first name too, so the “To:” and “From:” even worked out for her. Tears and anger welled up inside of me. Worse yet, when she came out and saw me standing there empty handed, she looked me in the eye and called me a brown-noser.
None of us like being bullied, nor do we like to be in situations where we can be taken advantage of. That’s why the word “vulnerability” makes some of us cringe. Being bullied is one thing outside of our control, but being vulnerable is something we choose. And it puts ourselves in a position where others can hurt us. To be vulnerable is to be able to let others know that we don’t have it all together, that we aren’t picture perfect, and that we have weaknesses. And when others know where we are weakest, they can choose to take advantage.
Paul talks about his weakness and how God responds to his weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “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.”
The reality is that we all have weaknesses and all are needy. Whether we are physically or emotionally exhausted, going through something that we don’t feel like we can bear, finding ourselves living in sin, or a number of other situations, it’s clear that we are all in need of strength from God. Weakness drives us towards dependence on the Lord. As we admit our need to God, He moves in on our weakness and provides His strength as we depend on Him.
Vulnerability is risky, but it’s also brave. It puts our pride on the line, but also leads to great reward. It’s the driving force of connection. Every time I finally get to a place that forces honesty before my Creator, He meets me there with His generous grace that never runs out (just like He did for Paul). He welcomes me in and gives me everything I was looking for, a new hope and a new power through Him. Vulnerability has taken my relationship with others and with God to a whole new level.
We can self-protect and build walls that keep us from being known by God and others. Or we can tear down the walls of our hearts and let others and God in to even the weakest places of our lives. When we do, God promises that His power will prove strong even there.