In the past couple months, the Lord has put an interesting concept on my heart-- the virtue of vulnerability. For most of my adult life, I have learned from society and my environment in general, that putting on a hard shell of invulnerability is a good thing. Showing how strong and invincible you are is a true virtue- or so I thought. Isn't that what our society teaches us? Strong women are women who don't wear their emotions on their sleeve. Strong women take a blow and give it right back- with attitude. Strong women are independent of any outside help- they can do everything themselves- better! Strong women don't have weaknesses- or at least if they do, they do a very good job of covering them up.
But God has gently shown me that this is not a virtue. This way of thinking is damaging to our souls and to the souls of those around us. I have learned how damaging this mentality is especially in a marriage relationship after reading Holy Sex! by Dr. Gregory Popcak. When you don't share your entire self- body, soul, mind, and spirit, with your spouse, you are not truly loving. Dr. Popcak explains how our first parents- Adam and Eve did not know how not to be vulnerable until after the Fall. They shared everything with each other and God and did not experience any shame. They knew true freedom and love.
Yesterday, our priest, Fr. Mark also drove this concept of vulnerability home with his homily. Here is an excerpt from his homily on his blog: http://crumbsofbread.wordpress.com/
"Being vulnerable is probably not on the top of our to-do list. It is risky, adventurous, spontaneous, free flowing and nerve racking. There is a rush of excitement and expectation, but as we journey through life we also learn that it can be painful, humiliating, and heart wrenching as well. Like the soft shell crab, we hide ourselves away from potential danger and lurk in the shadows and murky waters of the Chesapeake Bay of life. There is just one problem, if we don’t shed our shells, then we can’t grow, we can’t change, we can’t mature, and we can’t become more and more the person that God has created us to be. If we dwell only in the shadows and murky waters we might be alive, but we will never truly live. It is time that we start to see past the end of our own shell and take the risk to live again and allow the world in."
The ways we "hide under our shell", "put up walls", harden our hearts, or however you want to say it- are as numerous as they are varied. We hide behind our tv's or computers or video games or ipods to avoid any real conversation with those around us. We only converse in small talk with our relatives, children, spouses, friends, to avoid sharing anything real about who we are. And these are just a few ways we hide from intimacy from those around us. Think of the ways we hide from intimacy with God. Having constant noise and busyness around us, not truly acknowledging our failures, or even asking for His loving mercy takes a plunge into vulnerability.
Of course, being vulnerable means risking hurt, but with this hurt comes healing, as Fr. Mark said. Jesus knew this best of all. He was willing to be a vulnerable baby, a vulnerable friend to his disciples, a vulnerable minister to the hurt, and finally a victim of greatest vulnerability- of being physically and emotionally abused to the point of dying naked on the cross. We often don't think of the vulnerability there because Jesus always has a little piece of cloth on the crucifixes we look at, but he really gave his entire self up for us to the Father. He showed that true love means withholding nothing. He gives his entire self to us again and again through the Eucharist. He knows how much it hurts to be vulnerable this way, but he doesn't care because wants to love us with his entire self. Again and again.
I have so much room for growth in this "new" virtue. With God's help each day, I'll try to challenge myself more and more to be a little more vulnerable in order to be more loving and lovable.