In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes this: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.”
This passage has been coming to mind often over these last few months, in large respect because of the deep humility and vulnerability that it calls each of us to have.
The cross of Christ—based on the hymn in Philippians 2—demonstrates the humility of God. And within that humility was costly sacrifice, degradation, belittling, shame.
In other words, within Christ’s humility was deep vulnerability. Within Paul’s weakness was deep vulnerability. And in mirroring Christ’s vulnerability, Paul sees himself as allowing Christ’s power to then rest on him.
And I wonder if that’s the task that we’re being called to today.
We don’t like what vulnerability feels like, and so we try to fight it at every corner. But the reality is that we are vulnerable. We’re vulnerable to great disappointment and discouragement; we’re vulnerable to other people’s opinions and judgements; we’re vulnerable to feeling disconnected from others, including God Himself.
And when the walls around us fall apart, and all that’s left standing is our own selves—without structure or programs or gatherings to compensate for our insecurities—all that’s left is us, exposed for the weak and fragile creatures that we are, and utterly dependent on the grace of God to hold us up.
Pastor Ed coined this phrase at the beginning of the Covid season: “Embrace the shake.”
That’s a phrase that has stuck with us as a staff, something we keep coming back to when we feel that vulnerability resurfacing. Embrace the shake. Embrace the vulnerability, even though it makes you feel weak. Don’t be afraid of it. Let God use it.
It’s like a tree trunk that has layers upon layers of bark built on it; and you need to allow the great Woodworker to peel off and strip away those layers of bark in order to find the beautiful wood that’s hidden underneath.
It takes vulnerability to be refined. It takes vulnerability to instigate change. It takes vulnerability to initiate a call or visit to someone, to share about your faith with someone who intimidates you, or to sign on to a Zoom chat when you struggle with self-image or hate being on camera.
But it’s in our vulnerability that others find permission to also be vulnerable. It’s where we find courage to take risks and try new things.
Sometimes we are just too darn afraid of making mistakes, perhaps because we believe people will think less of us. They’ll be less confident in our abilities. Or we’ll be subject to too much scrutiny. But in the process of fearing people and opinions, we lose something much greater.
The opportunity to be vulnerable—where Christ can remind us that we can’t do this by ourselves, no matter how hard we try.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.”
How might Jesus be inviting you into vulnerability today?
Prayer: Living God, I pray that You would meet me today in my vulnerability. May this be a day where I can be encouraged, where I can be reminded of all the ways that You are at work, and where I can be ever-more mindful of Your Mission and the work that I am called to do in partnership with Your Holy Spirit. In Christ’s Name, amen.