Child-Like: Vulnerable as Children

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Text: Matt 18:1-5

Vulnerable as Children

By Edie Lenz, Churches Learning Change

Children are often referred to as “vulnerable”. By this we usually mean that they are in need of care, protection, nurture, and “scaffolding” to help them thrive. Children don’t inherently know who is safe, what is good for them, or how to navigate the world – for that they need wise, loving, and dedicated guides. When we love our children well, we don’t control every moment of their being, we don’t do all things for them – rather we invite their curiosity, playfulness, and let them learn. As leaders we often find ourselves hit by the reality – we don’t always know what to do, where we should go, or how we are going to get there. In this admission is a vulnerability that is often uncomfortable and deeply challenging, but lies at the heart of who we are called by Christ to be.

Brené Brown writes of vulnerability as

“uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, the question becomes: “Are we willing to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome?” – Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Jesus invites us to become like children: to be vulnerable. As leaders, we are invited into the risk and uncertainty of not having all the answers, needing to learn new things, needing partners and new ways of thinking. This vulnerability flies in the face of what we often hold up as “good leadership”; the leader on a pedestal, the person with the answers, the charismatic leader who knows exactly what to do. But uncertainty, risk, and the possibility of emotional exposure – these are the makings of a Christ-like leader.

In the face of overwhelming change in the past 2 years, in leading a small congregation I often feel the vulnerability of not having the answers. I have a lot of questions, but not the answers. To sit with my leaders and say, “I don’t know” is at once deeply vulnerable and deeply freeing. Reality is – I don’t know; I don’t have the answers for our future but I am committed to deep discernment, prayer, and wondering together. Is it frightening? Yes. Uncertain? Absolutely. Faithful? I am committed to finding out. 

Vulnerability 

Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, 

or something we can arrange to do without, 

vulnerability is not a choice, 

vulnerability is the underlying, ever present 

and abiding undercurrent of our natural state.

 To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, 

the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt 

to become something we are not and most especially, 

to close off our understanding of the grief of others. 

More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability 

we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence 

and immobilize the essential, 

tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power 

over all events and circumstances, 

is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime 

and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human 

and especially of being youthfully human, 

but it is a privilege that must be surrendered 

with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, 

with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers;

powers eventually and most emphatically given up, 

as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how 

we inhabit our vulnerability, 

how we become larger and more courageous 

and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, 

our choice is to inhabit vulnerability 

as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, 

or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, 

always at the gates of existence, 

but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, 

never wanting to risk ourselves, 

never walking fully through the door.

– By David Whyte