To be human is to be vulnerable, a word whose Latin roots actually mean “able to be wounded.”
Vulnerable is the word that has sat heavy on my chest since late last evening. It’s been scrolling through my mind and marching on my soul all day.
According to polls, while one half of our country sighs in relief today, another half feels exposed, unsure and vulnerable. I am neither asking nor expecting people to feel other than they do; however, I am asking people to remember what it feels like to be in a place of vulnerability.
Perhaps the Obama administration struck deep fear in your heart. Perhaps a career-ending injury left your identity vulnerable to insecurity. Perhaps a break-up left your soul shattered and unsure. If you are human, you have experienced the fear that comes from vulnerability.
Now would be a good time to tap into that memory, as uncomfortable as it may be. Now would be a good time to practice empathy for a people just as wound-able as you.
While wealth, education, insurance and other such insulators tend to provide multiple layers of protection, they cannot make a human any less wound-able. Cancer strikes the insured and the uninsured and death waits for every human, regardless of their estate.
For the Christian, vulnerability is not a suggestion, it is a way of life practiced by Christ Himself. Leaving the gated community of all gated communities, Christ took upon a wound-able form, exposing Himself to physical, social, emotional and spiritual pain and discomfort. Let us not buy into the sentimental images Christmas conjures up of a baby, smiling and shining in a quaint stable. Mary and Joseph were working class, vulnerable parents forced to have a child in what was most likely a cave where animals slept. The One who had the privileges of the eternal Godhead was born an unprivileged, semi-illigimate son. From birth He was quite literally exposed to the elements. When he was a toddler, His parents fled to Egypt from a tense, life-threatening political situation. He must have sensed, even at his early age, their vulnerability and fear.
Christ saw people. He truly saw them. He read their eyes. He sensed their fears, their needs, their prejudices. He asked questions and heard their predicaments. He stepped toward the vulnerable.
C.S. Lewis beautifully captures the vulnerability of Christ in his book Miracles.
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb of ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and sea-bed of Nature. He had created. But He goes down to come up again, and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burdens. He must stoop in order to life, he must almost disappear under the load before He incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”
This is not meant to be a political or commentary. Goodness knows there are enough of those whizzing around right now.
This is a plea for us to tap into our humanity and remember our shared vulnerability. To look at the people with whom we deeply disagree and see them as humans who are wound-able and wounded.
To follow a vulnerable Christ into one or two vulnerable relationships with vulnerable people. To send a text to someone with whom we disagree politically or spiritually and show empathy and concern. To fight up against the innate ethnocentricity or political or religious-centricity in all of us and simply hear a different story.
In the words of Kenneth Cragg (as quoted by Eugene Peterson), “It takes a whole world to understand a whole Christ.”