Freedom in Vulnerability

 

Some Vulnerable Moments

  • IMG_4198When I cross the threshold of an airplane and see the five-inch-wide tube I’m climbing in, there is a moment of “heck no!” and I wonder if anyone else thinks about the fact that we are getting in a can to fly 35,000 feet up in the sky.
  • I used to live on a two lane highway in Missouri. Sometimes I would briefly close my eyes when the car coming toward me would pass. Not the smartest, I know, but the vision of a head on collision was just too much for me. I slipped into a short season of fear every time JT left for work. Two lane highway. People driving 65 miles an hour at each other.
  • I went into check on by baby because he was too fussy when I laid him down for his nap. I had stepped outside just to get a breather and let him cry it out. My momma heart was too heavy and I peeked in on him one more time. Oh my gosh! His eyes were swelling up! We called 911 and headed to the hospital. He had an allergic reaction to eggs.
  • 1985. My sister was sitting on my bed using the phone. I sat at her feet studying her face. She cried, “Okay, thank you.” She sat the phone down and ran down the hall. I followed right behind as she threw herself on the steps. “It was them, mom! It was them!” My grandparents had just been killed in an airplane crash.
  • 1984 6th grdHe called me a beaver.  I had bucked teeth in the 5th grade. He even made a beaver face at me, putting his front teeth over his bottom lip and making a sort of “phht” sound over and over.
  • When I was in Jr. High, I walked in the college music hall hugging my piano books against my chest. The competition was there. My nerves were in my throat and I watched the as the clock told me it was my turn. I sat down at the piano in the music room and played my memorized piece. My shoes clicked back down the hall and out into the Oklahoma heat. My stomach had settled back down.
  • My brother and I were driving slower than the actual speed limit looking for a place to turn around when some guy pulled out in front of us from the other side of the street. We hit him. Air bags and smoke. Amazing how powerful a hit is at 35 miles an hour. He was drunk and took off. The police found him down a dead end street.
  • I sat in a room full of people I loved and knew he didn’t love me anymore. He was over me. My heart was broken.
  • I leaned back and let my own body weight sit down in the strap. I looked up at the person above me telling me it was okay and to just start walking backward. Gravity pulled at me, trying to pull me down the 70 ft. drop. Straps held me in, and my own hand held a fall at bay. One foot after the other, down the rock face to the bottom. Two feet on the ground.
  • photo 1I panicked. I couldn’t go through with it and had to get out. My husband sat on the side of the hospital bed and told me we couldn’t make it stop and the baby was going to come. The panic subsided and a baby was born.
  • My girls were about the ages of four and five. My mom came over and wanted to take them home for the day. They drove off and then mom called me and said, “Oh, we’re going to run down to Carrie’s.” Carrie’s was 45 min away. Panic. What if they crash? What if I lose my babies? All bets are off if You take my babies.

            Vulnerable: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.

Welcome to the human experience. There is no human on the planet that at one time or another (or all the time) hasn’t felt vulnerable. The human experience is wrought with susceptibility. From health, to accidents; rejection to abandonment. We are vulnerable to loss, pain, terror, surprise, sickness and death. No human can escape. No human doesn’t experience the weight of this truth.

Vulnerability was exposed the moment Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There it was, the exposure of the chasm between man and God; good and evil; safety and vulnerability. Their instinct was to hide. They were scared. They had now and forever been exposed to two things: 1. Their own sin and 2. his great glory. Not the glory where we lift our hands and “give glory,” no, this is the weight of who God is. Their eyes were opened and the distinction between who they were and who God was was so stark, so terrifying, so drastic, so real, they ran and hid. His light had exposed the reality of what was between the Creator and the Created. The wonder had been blown out like a candle’s flame. Death was ushered in like an unwanted guest. They were no longer safe in the garden or safe in His presence. They had become vulnerable, susceptible, exposed.

Any encounter from then on with the Almighty was met first with “Do not be afraid!” Fear was the new instinct when humanity met its Maker. When the fullness of the glory of God was made known when the first couple ate, with it came the rebellion against that glory. Since his own Glory is God’s primary passion, he dealt with humanity as Great and Glorious first, and they then understood his love and compassion later. The weight of his Glory is his first and foremost expression of Who he is. Even when Jesus came, John says that after Jesus did his first miracle of turning water to wine that this was the first time “he revealed his glory.” It doesn’t say “he revealed his love.” Glory, the weight of Who God is, meets the human before anything characteristic or other expression.

It is this glory that makes us vulnerable. Scott Saul’s taught that when the angels appeared to the shepherds and declared, “Do not be afraid!” is because the Light of God exposes in us the darkness of what is expressed in humanity. His light exposes our frailty, our nothingness, our weakness, our insignificance, our dust, our fleeting nature. This great Light of God shines in our hearts and we are undone at the magnitude of the chasm between who God is and who we are. We know we are creatures, doomed to die and we feel it all the time. The gasp at a near miss. The relief when we get a good report. The sense that time goes too fast. We see it in the wrinkles in our faces and the pain in our joints. We smile and sigh at the clothes our kids outgrow in a few months. We shake our heads that is was twenty-five, fifty-five years ago we got married. We just can’t believe it when we bury our loved ones.

Death never feels right. Our vulnerable state comes to fruition when we breathe our last. Most of us have a sense that we will never really meet that time. I think we pass our days without giving breath a second thought. It goes in and out. Our chests heave up and down and we don’t even think about it. Then one day, it stops. And we are always surprised. Even if someone has been sick, when they stop breathing we just stare in disbelief. We instinctively know that death is not supposed to creep into the land of the living. It’s not supposed to show up and steal what we love. It’s not supposed to sweep through countries and come at the hands of one man to another. We know it. We know it.

So, we call it something else, “God’s will,” or “The circle of life.” Others might say that they will find life in the next life. Maybe they will come back as someone or something else. But, to think that we die and that’s it, is almost something the human mind cannot, or will not, accept.

Why? Why does the human in all its brilliance and intelligence suffer in the knowledge that death comes to us all? It is because it is not in the original design. We were never created to feel the susceptibility and vulnerability we now feel. Even now, thousands of years and sins removed from Adam and Eve, we cannot help but hate death. It’s been part of the human experience since the beginning, surely we would have reconciled with it by now! But, we haven’t. We still weep and wail. We still sit stunned and stare off. We still scream and cry and shake our fists at the heavens. We are not used to it. Even in our attempts to honor our loved ones and create dignified ways of saying good-bye, the ache in the human heart swells and we just know that it isn’t right.

And we are right.

Before the choice of sinning against God, there was no death, and it is still within the DNA of the human to know that we aren’t meant for it. In fact, the Word of God says, “He has also set eternity in their heart.” (Ecc. 3:11) It’s just as much truth in us as our DNA for our gender, eye color, hair color, race, and fingerprints. Their choice left all of us vulnerable and scared. It left us feeling like at any minute the worst could happen.

 

But…

In the same story of the angels before the shepherds after they declare, “Do not be afraid!” they go on to say, “We bring you good news that will cause great joy!” The same light of God that exposed mankind to the chasm between Creator and Created offers that which will redeem sin and death. The same Light that brought forth the Glory of God, the weight of who he was before that which he had created, now brought forth the Glory, the weight of redemption. The Light exposes us; the Light envelopes us.

Why is this freedom?

Because now we are left with something we don’t have to beat ourselves up over anymore. At the age of 42 I have now realized, with relief, that my instinct to panic, to suck in air of fear and flinch at bad news, and cry at death, and have a moment of anxiety when I need to do a breast exam, is nothing more that my fallen human experience that was brought forth when the Light of God’s holiness and glory was shown to Adam and Eve.

It is not a lack of faith when I feel vulnerable.

It is the very expression of knowing Who God is and who I am; knowing what will be and what is right now; knowing my life is dying, but there is life to come. I am not not trusting God because I feel vulnerable and exposed to what could happen in life. I am not someone who doesn’t believe God for his word when I feel the weight of death and fear of illness, or debt, or suffering, or abandonment.

What is faith is feeling that vulnerability, that exposure, that insecurity and believing that the same Light of Glory, weight of God, love and compassion of God is greater than those things. His glory over me in blessing and life is greater than what is revealed in the natural human experience.

I think too often it has been taught that a life with fear is a life without faith.

While I believe we cannot live in fear, I do not believe we can live without feeling vulnerable. When vulnerability gives way to fear, we must remind ourselves that God’s glory over us is greater. God’s promise to us is greater. God’s love in us through Jesus is greater. God’s Holy Spirit who brings us life and light and knowledge is greater.

God’s glory is greater. The angels in Luke 2 continue with the joy that God’s glory is the highest and there will be peace for those on whom his favor (blessing) rests! This Glory rests upon us.

This GLORY rests on us. Think on this.

We should be relieved to know that the vulnerable ways we feel are because God has shown himself to us and we have seen the scales of balance between us. A greater knowledge of God should create in us a greater sense of vulnerability. From this, we rest in the greater greatness of God’s glory in and over us that comes in blessing and honor, strength and power, stability and peace, security and being known.

This is peace that passes understanding. In our vulnerable, chaotic state, we have a peace from God that passes it up. This tells us that our understanding is, yes, we are vulnerable and exposed and dying, and yet his peace is greater than that. We don’t have to stop feeling one to have the other. The Glory of God gives us this supernatural peace in the midst of our natural vulnerable reality. That is faith.

That is the freedom found in vulnerability.

 

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