March 26, 2018
You could hear a pin drop. At this year’s men’s retreat, 127 pairs of eyes were glued to a man vulnerably sharing his broken story.
I was reminded again just how badly we need to let others see our weaknesses and doubts, our fears, and our failures. What fascinated me most about the testimonies was that these men were letting others see their sin, their shame, their fear, their hurt…and we loved them for it. Something inside of us was stirring.
The truth is that vulnerability is particularly elusive because it’s not just that we have to be weak in front of someone else. It’s that we have to be weak in front of ourselves.”
Vulnerability is a word thrown around a lot these days. The more I hunger for it, the more I see how elusive it is. But it’s not elusive because we don’t want it – I could see beams of thankfulness from the audience covering the man as he shared. Vulnerability is not elusive because we don’t know what it is. It’s certainly something you can see when it’s happening.
The truth is that vulnerability is particularly elusive because it’s not just that we have to be weak in front of someone else. It’s that we have to be weak in front of ourselves. I think most Christians oscillate back and forth between feeling exposed and sinful one minute to feeling the need to try to be good and do better the next. This leaves us feeling lonely in being exposed and compensating to do better.
What if it’s our heart’s greatest desire to know we are loved and accepted just as we are? The tragedy of hiding is that we long for acceptance just as we are, and immediately mute that longing by never letting people see the “real” us. Part of why Alcoholics Anonymous has been such a help to so many people is that when you walk through the door, you are greeted by people who bear the same burdens, know the same temptations, and have failed the same tests. You are reminded that those you will encounter will get your struggle, because they know their own weakness, not their own strength.
Do you see how differently it is for people to walk into a church? Somehow on Sunday morning we all forget that nobody has it all together. So we walk into a place looking for genuine acceptance, compensating with appearance (looks, lifestyle, attitude, etc.). We want to be known and promptly hide who we are. When we walk through the door, we say, “These people won’t get my struggles, because they don’t have any weaknesses.”
Now, I’m not asserting that we should all walk around airing our dirty laundry. But I do believe that if the posture of our lives communicated, “I don’t have it all together…not even close…and in fact, I have struggles and doubts and sin and suffering…” We would be in much better shape to love and accept one another. You might free someone up to think Gospel-centered thoughts like, “I yell at my kids, but there’s help here from others who have struggled with that.” “I had an affair, but there is hope from marriages here that survived the breach.” “I’m struggling with porn, but there’s help here for others who have walked that road.”
So let me give you two questions to help you discern where you are in this. If people don’t communicate struggles to you, then you might have one of two problems: you either don’t talk enough about your problems, or you aren’t close enough to people for them to want to open up.
Galatians could not be clearer on this point. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
Vulnerability shouldn’t be saved for men’s retreats. It should be the church’s M.O.