(above photo of an article in Thryve Mag)
Just writing that word grates against my heart a tiny bit. Growing up in a Christian home, I took on the "good girl" mentality for the first two decades of life. As long as it appeared I did no wrong and struggled with little, I was good. Don't get me wrong, my parents were wonderfully supportive and my church, friends, and school all played a big role in who I am today. My struggle with the fear of vulnerability was never placed on me by other people. My perfectionism was a wall I built around myself. I loved being a leader in the youth group and on my cheerleading squad. It was a privilege that I embraced. But in the embracing, I began to cover up areas of my heart that needed to be free. In my perfectionist, good girl struggle, I couldn't bridge the gap of being real and being without flaw.
It wasn't until college that I began to re-learn, once more, the depth of the goodness of the Gospel. Through various struggles with my body image, the Lord drew me back to what He called me to in the first place - living a life centered on the cross. Cross-centered living is not perfectionistic, it is vulnerable. It is coming to Jesus everyday and saying - "here I am, mess and all! Use me for your glory." But the steps to embracing a healthy vulnerability are blurry sometimes. What truly is cross-centered vulnerability? If you fear vulnerability and opening up your heart, this article is for you. If you are trapped in a prison, unable to understand the deep things of your soul or to relate to those who do, I pray you find encouragement in the following words. And if you feel raw, confused, and like you don't know who you are, I pray that you would take time to sit at the foot of the cross, where Jesus died for the perfection you seek so that you could have the life God originally intended you to live.
I'm ready for this. My heart aches to understand the beauty of gospel vulnerability.
Vulnerable :: capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to moral attack, criticism, or temptation
The first definition of vulnerability that I found scared me. "Capable of being wounded or hurt, open to attack and criticism." Those things aren't something that will draw people toward being vulnerably free. There is a type of vulnerability that is not healthy for us. To grasp the freedom, we must fully grasp what can imprison us. Over and over again in the Bible we can find story after story of people who let down their defenses and were wounded because of their lack of preparedness. For example, in the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden where all of life began, Adam and Eve allowed Satan to attack their minds. He deceived Eve by making her think God was keeping something from her. The moment she and Adam bit into the forbidden fruit, they lost their vulnerability. Genesis 3:7 tells us "then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."
Eve made herself vulnerable to attack of the enemy when she began listening to lies. She doubted the goodness and promises of God and sought that which would not save her soul. Vulnerability is dangerous when we make ourselves open to attack. In Ephesians, Paul encouraged the believers to "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil" (6:11). We must wear God's Word, His truth, His power, His promises, His grace every single day so that we are not in a place where Satan can wound us. As followers of Christ living for a greater kingdom purpose, we must be on our guard everyday from the attacks of Satan. In order to do this, we must treasure His Word and spend time in the presence of God each day.
However, there is a type of vulnerability that is beautiful. It is the kind of vulnerability that comes to Jesus as we are, defenses down, and allows His blood to wash over us. A good vulnerability is an openness with God about our sinful state and need for Him. In a world of misconstrued perfection through the guise of social media, women are getting lost in all the mess. At our core, we are seeking authenticity, realness, and vulnerability. I don't know about you, but I am exhausted of trying to keep up with perfection? Constant comparison is driven by a longing for perfection that none of us will ever obtain. We can't. It is impossible. So why do we try so hard?
Christ-centered vulnerability is found when we recognize our need for Jesus and our wretchedness without Him. It recognizes grace, breathes it in, and lives by grace every moment of every day. The story of the sinful woman being forgiven in Luke 8:36-50 reminds me of the beauty and freedom of Christ-centered vulnerability. In verse 37 we read a description of this woman, and all that we learn about her was that she was from the city and she was a sinner. Can you imagine? People only knew her by her sin. It was like the scarlet letter. And yet, we read, she came to Jesus, sin and all, with her alabaster flask of ointment to pour on His feet. As she poured this ointment that was worth a large sum of money on the feet of Jesus (that were most likely dirty with the dust from walking with sandals), she cried tears of thanksgiving. Tears streaming down her face to the feet of the Savior of the world, she used her hair, her precious possession as a women, to wipe His feet.
Are you picturing the beauty and depth of this situation? Her surrender, her vulnerability is brave. It is exciting to see someone recognize the grace of Christ and grasp it. Witnessing her humble act of courage, the Pharisees were appalled. But Jesus responds with such grace! He says in verse 47, "therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has forgiven little, loves little." Could it be that Christ-centered vulnerability is truly love? It is embracing Christ Jesus with all we have knowing He is our only hope? John 8:36 gives us this great promise: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." We will never embrace the freedom Christ died for as long as we keep trying to cover up sin with the mask of perfection. Embrace your freedom in Christ.
Beautiful vulnerability is a response to the Gospel. Though it can be exhausting at times, sharing the depths of our hearts and calling out sins, it is also freeing. To share truth with others without the mask of perfection on is to love them freely in the name of Jesus! Brene Brown described the act of courage as "telling the story of who you are with your whole heart." The woman who worshipped Jesus by washing His feet with her hair showed the world through her actions that she knew Jesus was better. She was courageous enough to be humble and loving. Humility is more courageous than pride.
At its' core, Christ-centered vulnerability is the where our life begins. Recognizing that we need Jesus, we need salvation, we need the church, we need forgiveness, we need grace, and we long for hope is the start of a beautiful freedom that those around you will want to embrace. It is the "birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love."
If you are struggling with vulnerability, I pray you would be free. In Jesus name, I pray you would come to Jesus each day just as you are, ready for Him to use you where you are. Share your story with courage and with joy! Live embracing your imperfection, knowing Christ died to set you free from the prison of perfect living. I believe that if we fully lived a Christ-centered vulnerability each day, that we would grasp what Gospel community was meant to look like. Whether this is through meeting with a friend, through sharing Gospel truth on social media, or through bonding with your spouse through sharing your heart. Let us not be afraid any longer to share the depths of our heart. Let us embrace the freedom that comes through sharing and coming to Jesus with our best and our worst. He takes it all and makes it new for His glory.
living vulnerably free with you,