Last week, we looked at Vulnerability from a new perspective. According to Brene’ Brown, author and speaker, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement.” By definition, Vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
Since uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure are not optional in this life, we have to decide where, when, and how we are going to engage. Even though there are times when we would like to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, complete Isolation is not really possible or practical, and probably has a lot more negative effects than vulnerability. It’s not a great trade off. COVID has shown us in great detail how destructive isolation can be. So, when, where, how, and why do we engage, especially as a follower of Christ?
When I was about 4 or 5 years old, we lived in a subdivision in Chamblee-Dunwoody close to Atlanta. I loved to play outside. Back in those days parental supervision wasn’t as tight as it is today. I had a long leash. Which is funny because when I was 2, my mother literally used a leash to keep me contained. I was a runner and on the go all the time. I think I even have a picture to prove it.
Anyway, I had a next-door neighbor named PJ who was a little older than me and bigger. He used to pick on me enough that I was kind of afraid to go outside. Fear of PJ kept me from engaging in what I loved to do: playing with the dogs, tree climbing, and chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Brown up the street. I had a sandbox to maintain for crying out loud!
My dad, seeing and understanding my predicament knew that PJ was becoming an impediment to my future happiness, and the welfare of the “little people” in my sandbox. PJ was a bully. My dad knew that in order for me to reengage in the outside world, I had to face my fears, stand up for myself, or the bullying would continue. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. It was an opportunity for him to teach me about courage and overcoming obstacles in life. So, he offered this advice:
“Robby, the next time that you go outside and PJ comes after you, pick up a stick and hit him over the head with it.”
I know. Advising a four year old to use a weapon is not a good idea in any era. He probably thought I wouldn’t be able to stand up to PJ in a straight up fight, so the stick was meant to be the great equalizer, I guess. It had danger written all over it, right? What if I poked PJ’s eye out or worse? I don’t think my dad actually thought I would do it.
But, I did exactly what he told me to do. I went outside. PJ came after me. I picked up a stick and didn’t hesitate. It was on like Donkey Kong. I’m not sure who was witnessing the whole event, but the story is that I chased PJ out of our yard with my stick and landed several successful strikes. Fortunately, I didn’t do any serious damage. But, that was the last time that PJ ever messed with me.
Okay, so, this is a great example of how “not to” engage, right? No sticks! No weapons!
Jesus knew the when, where, why, and how of engagement. He understood the challenges, obstacles, and bullies that were waiting for Him. He knew the prophecy in Isaiah 53 that said he would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter”. He already knew His fate. The script had already been written. He didn’t hide or run away from it. He chose to engage knowing what lay ahead. Did it have an effect on Him? Was He afraid? We know that Jesus prayed/asked God the father three times to “take this cup from me” or “get me out of this”! Read the account from Matthew 26 and Luke 22. Here are two verses that reveal the effects of His vulnerability.
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44 (NIV)
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38(NIV)
There is an actual medical condition called Hematidrosis or “blood sweat” that can be caused by extreme distress or fear, such as facing death, torture, or severe ongoing abuse.
Remember the quote from Brene’ Brown last week, “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” Jesus displayed an unimaginable depth of courage and clarity of purpose. Even though He was afraid and in extreme distress, he didn’t protect himself or disconnect. He didn’t pick up a stick either:)
I’m really enjoying this study of vulnerability. As always, I’m never sure where my thoughts will take me. It’s hard for me to stop, but if I don’t this devotional is going to be a book. I need to save some for the next week or two. This week’s devotion has turned out to be an exploration of Jesus vulnerability, and His depth of engagement. He did all that for us, to save us, and to protect us from the consequences of sin. His clarity of purpose was His love for us. What if He would have chosen not to engage? How vulnerable would we be now?
Have a great weekend!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management