Don’t you just love it when you make a mistake and someone points it out to you? Or how about when someone notices a flaw that you are already aware of? I have found that our own children are often good for this. As early as age 5, they might point out when you say something that is unkind, or perhaps acknowledge when you don’t put your seat belt on right away, or they may even notice minor flaws like your nose being slightly crooked (I’m getting personal here…).
For me, insecurities started creeping in at a young age when I started comparing myself (or my toys, my clothes, etc.) to others. I’m not sure what caused a switch to flip in me that suddenly made me hyper-aware of others and often feeling “less than”. It was not a result of my upbringing; my parents were loving and encouraging and provided a safe home. But at some point, I took great notice of those around me who seemed prettier, smarter, skinnier, more athletic… you name it. And the more I compared, the higher I raised the bar for myself, quite frankly, making it unattainable.
Somewhere along the road of life, I did learn tactics to get in front of my self-declared (or pointed out) flaws. This came in many forms. Self-deprecation (proactively pointing out my flaws so everyone knew I was aware of them.) Harder work (doing everything and anything I could to over-achieve and ‘make up for’ my flaws.) Hiding weaknesses (heaven forbid I let anyone know about my struggles or they might think less of me.)
Any of this sound familiar???
It was exhausting.
As my relationship with Jesus grew deeper, and friendships and relationships were centered on Him and not on the stuff of this world, He started working on my heart specifically in this area in which I struggled so greatly. I knew that to grow closer to God, I needed to remove the façades. I needed to stop the comparisons. I needed to get vulnerable.
The apostle Paul displayed vulnerability in raw ways for the world to read. Not only was he incredibly vulnerable in his many teachings in the Bible, but he also helps us to understand God’s strength and grace at work when we’re vulnerable. Paul was particularly so in his letters to the Corinthians. He wrote 2 Corinthians at an extremely vulnerable time in his life. He had learned that the church at Corinth was struggling, and he was striving to preserve their unity. In doing so, he called upon his own life experiences, sharing relatable struggles in order to bridge a connection and help them persevere.
In this particular letter, Paul got rather personal, revealing details about the persecution he suffered for the sake of Jesus, as well as about a mysterious thorn in the flesh that kept him reliant on God. He points out in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” He continues 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.”
‘Delighting’ in weakness? Can you imagine ever getting to such a place?
Years ago, I did anything but delight in my weaknesses. But when we do, God can use them to strengthen us in ways far beyond our own comprehension! And not only that, but he also encourages us to share them with others. That would have yielded an audible gasp at previous times in my life. But God uses Paul to encourage us in Galatians 6:2, when he points out that we should be leaning on one another (not hiding from or worrying about what one another thinks): “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Paul also shares what I feel is the ultimate in vulnerability – he boldly expresses his struggles with sin. In Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” and Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
This type of vulnerability was clearly important to God because He also used James, who declared in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Nowhere in the Bible does it state, “hide your flaws” and “don’t share your struggles” or “don’t reveal weakness to others”. The world tells us that each and every day, but friends, the Bible does not. Rather, the Bible tells us that vulnerability yields fruit.
Vulnerability gives us so much that concealing does not:
- Vulnerability unleashes the stronghold of comparison.
- Vulnerability enables us to lean on God.
- Vulnerability provides freedom and enables healing.
- Vulnerability allows us share in one another’s burdens.
Some might call me an over-sharer these days. I have experienced incredible freedom in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have also found that it gives others freedom too. And I try to let that trump any feelings of insecurity that I have about being vulnerable. I trust that God will use it all for His good and purposes.
1 John 1:5-7 illustrates what it means to “walk in the light”. In essence, being vulnerable means we are walking in the light. I love The Message version of this verse: “This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.”
Walking in light, we not only reveal and see the truth about ourselves and our circumstances, but we also let others in. And we let God in. And only when we let Him in can we truly experience freedom from the flaws, sins, and struggles.
Today, I still find myself creeping into unhealthy spaces every so often. Say something dumb… I’ll lament for a while. Put on a few pounds… I must point it out to others, so they know that I KNOW that it’s there. Something needs fixing or updating in my home… I’ll make sure all guests know that I’m aware of that thing. The list goes on and on and it can be a daily struggle. But you know what else comes daily? Light. I know these struggles come from a place of insecurity and/or worrying what others think. I know putting them in the light is the way to diminish the power they might have over me. Most importantly, the only person I need to worry about pleasing is God. Everything I have is His, and He put me on this earth to be steward of it, from my physical body, to my house, to my children. And the more I operate from a place of vulnerability in managing all of that, the more freedom I know I will experience.
Lord, thank You that You are the One who gives ultimate freedom to us. I pray that You continue to reveal to me the places in which I need to be vulnerable. Father, I also thank You for the community with which you have surround our family. I pray for vulnerability among our community because I know that You placed us together to encourage one another and lift each other. I pray this in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.