Christian Vulnerability

I am most drawn to Jesus at the times He is most vulnerable.

The miracles are great, don’t get me wrong.  And I am a big fan of His moments with Peter: the water-walking, the restoring.  They matter a lot to me.  But more than anything, I am drawn to two places when I want to feel close to Jesus: the Garden of Gethsemane, and Lazarus’ tomb.

At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus weeps.  We don’t have certain proof of why precisely He wept.  Scholars have posited many suppositions: His sorrow over death in general, His empathy with Mary and Martha, His grief over sin, His recognition that raising Lazarus would essentially sign His own death sentence.  For me, it’s enough to know that, according to the Greek, He felt sharply.  Jesus was so overwhelmed by His feelings, for whatever reason, that He was moved to tears.

Similarly, it’s evident in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus is someone who feels pain.  Who wishes the cup to be taken from Him if it’s possible.  Who is in great anguish, and who is for all intents and purposes alone among his earthly companions in that anguish.  Who feels so deeply and intensely that He sweats blood.

For whatever reason, these moments comfort me because in them I see myself. I am the sort of person who feels deeply.  I’ve had moments where I desperately did not want a certain outcome, but had to recognize that such an outcome might be God’s will.  I’ve been so overwhelmed with feeling for various reasons that I’ve cried.  And it’s nice knowing that Jesus and I have that in common: that He didn’t consider it a weakness to feel openly, to show His vulnerabilities.

I am bewildered by believers who don’t seem to understand that, and I am often intimidated by Christians who never seem to portray any sort of vulnerability or meaningful emotion in any situation ever.  Who never seem to feel.  They are walking peace-machines, they are always completely satisfied with God’s will, and they never have questions. Around them, you start to feel bad about expressing any sort of feeling that is not pure, calm, trusting peace.

We run the risk of pushing others away if we refuse to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and let them show.  I’ve known Christians who inadvertently shamed others for grieving a death, wondering aloud how it could be possible to cry when someone was finally going to heaven to meet Jesus.  I’ve known Christians who, whatever private doubts or struggles they experienced, papered over it and pretended to the world like everything was fine, and would always be fine, and would never not be fine.  I’ve known Christians who sat through funerals and births and weddings and tragedies like stoic soldiers, unmoved by any human emotion either good or ill.

But Jesus was moved.  He let Himself be moved.  God Himself is moved by feeling; take a tour through the prophetic books and you’ll come out scorched by the intensity of His emotions.  Crying isn’t a sin.  Feeling and showing feeling aren’t sins.  Struggling aloud, wondering aloud, crying out aren’t sins.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7.  If that’s so, then surely it’s all the more reason to let the cracks and vulnerabilities show – that’s how the light gets out into the world.

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