Vulnerability. It is a word that makes most people, myself included, at least a little bit uncomfortable. The definition of vulnerability, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage.”
Have you ever been vulnerable with someone? Was it emotional vulnerability? Physical vulnerability? Did your hands shake? Did you have to take a few deep breaths before you could begin? Was your stomach tangled in knots?
Was the discomfort worth it?
Sometimes, doing hard things, like being vulnerable can lead to a changed life, a changed heart, or even a changed world.
“Really, vulnerability is going to change the world,” you might question with an eyebrow arched and eyes skeptically squinted.
Well, I can think of one case where that was true. It is the story of a young girl, who was simultaneously scared and brave. She was vulnerable with the people closest to her, and who put her trust and her hope in her Heavenly Father.
This teenage girl was engaged to a nice young man who had a good job. She was loved. Her future was secure. She was probably excited about the days and years to come, looking at her world the same way a high school graduate regards the world after walking across the stage: full of promise, full of possibilities, and full of adventure.
When an angel appeared to her, our girl was “greatly troubled” (Luke 1:29). He told her that she would soon give birth to a child, and not just any child, a son who would sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:31-33). The girl, named Mary (as you have likely discerned by this point), was probably running through all the problems with this scenario in her head.
I’m a virgin, I can’t have a baby. What will people think? What will my fiancé think?
The angel explained that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, would put the baby in her womb, reminding her of miraculous things she had witnessed and ensuring her that with God, all things are possible (Luke 1: 35-37).
Mary replied boldly, “I am the Lord’s servant,” consenting to the miracle with humility, faith, and courage (Luke 1:38).
Mary knew that this act of God would require vulnerability on her part. She would have to be vulnerable spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Were her hands shaking as she ran to her relative Elizabeth’s house to tell her the unbelievable news (Luke 1:39-45)? Elizabeth, expecting her own son despite her old age, was going through a similar situation. Mary’s vulnerability in sharing her story with Elizabeth lead to bonding and encouragement between the two women.
Did Mary have to take some deep breaths before she mustered up the courage to spill the beans to Joseph? She was opening herself up to attack, both emotionally and physically, since Joseph could have easily divorced her or had her stoned (Matthew 1:18-19). But the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary’s child was of the Holy Spirit and that he should not divorce her (Matthew 1:20).
Mary’s vulnerability was necessary to pave the way for Jesus’ coming. She trusted God’s plan through the pain and worry that accompany vulnerability and something wonderful happened.
You do not have to share something as miraculous and world-changing as being the mother of the Son of God to practice vulnerability.
God has given me dear friendships where vulnerability about similar struggles has strengthened and encouraged us both. God has drawn others to him when I have been vulnerable in sharing my testimony. I have been edified by countless speakers, preachers, authors, and bloggers who have been vulnerable in sharing what God has laid on their hearts.
Being obedient to God in vulnerability brings about good things. Is God is calling you to be vulnerable with someone? It you can get past the nervous feeling that your stomach is tangled in knots and step out in faith and obedience, that vulnerability just might be the way God is going to bring about something good.