Day #38: Vulnerability

He asked, “Who are you looking for?”
They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
He said to them,
“I Am.”When he said, “I Am,” [the soldiers] shrank back and fell to the ground. He asked them again, “Who are you looking for?”
-John 18:4-6

If vulnerability is willingly opening yourself to being hurt, embarrassment is the experience of finding yourself vulnerable in a place and time you didn’t intend. These few short lines from John are embarrassing for the soldiers. They show up to arrest a dangerous revolutionary with “lanterns, torches, and weapons,” and instead they find an empty-handed man who asks ignorant questions. As if Jesus looks at them and says, “Nice costumes, guys, is it Saturnalia already?” The soldiers literally fall over with embarrassment. And it’s supposed to be literal—John writes the whole crucifixion story as a Greek drama, peppering the pre-death moments with a dark humor. The soldiers are embarrassed but Jesus, too, is embarrassed in this scene. What kind of God allows someone to bind his arms? What kind of God allows death to be forced on the Divine? A God who chose vulnerability over violence. An utterly helpless, naïve, gullible God. A God who gives humans every chance to do good, up to the very last moment. It’s that vulnerability that makes this story so enduring, and so hopeful.

Takeaway: At the crucifixion, God becomes vulnerable to humanity. God opens Godself to the possibility of being hurt. As if God wishes to tell us: it’s okay to be known and to be hurtable. You are made to be known, which means you are made with the possibility of being hurt.  Notice, today, when you sidestep vulnerability: when your motive for doing something is to avoid embarrassment or exposing some piece of yourself for judgment. Try to edge toward vulnerability. Open up, just a little farther than is comfortable. Make a joke you’d usually hold back, in case no one laughs (it’s embarrassing). Or admit to doing something stupid (how embarrassing). Or tell someone you love them (what if they don’t love you as much? Embarrassing!) If even the Creator of the Universe is willing to be embarrassed, we, too, can risk a little embarrassment.


Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Lent is Not about Guilt, it’s about Resilience

The week before Ash Wednesday, my internal clock blasts a grating alarm, demanding that I search out something adequately worth giving up. (I wasn’t raised in a very Lent-observant family, but I always found anything self-minimizing to be impressionable.) It’s like last-minute Christmas shopping in reverse: return all the happinesses and cash in on austerity. Give up something! Lent is the season of repentance and reflection in the church calendar, but for many it’s more of a season of deprivation—giving up chocolate, alcohol, social media, meat, those small indulgences we know we “should” be moderating the rest of the year. It’s the restarting of New Year’s Resolutions with all the pep talks, guilt trips, and resignation contained in January.

And when you get to the first week of March, no one wants to repeat January. Continue reading