Faithful Food: Vulnerability and Risk


by Kim Long

Words and their meanings have become causalities in our current world. It seems we can be overly casual with their meanings, “loving” everything from soda to chocolate and “knowing” all who cross our paths.

Recently I attended three funeral services within a week. The pews were filled with people who were drawn by shared experiences with the deceased. Perhaps something as casual as a connection by marriage, rather than blood, a conversation from which we walked away transformed or even sitting together in shared silence.

Driving home from funeral number two, which was “out in the country,” I reflected on the concept of knowing someone else (or oneself for that matter) and the word “vulnerability” kept popping up.

Poet and storyteller Jack Shea in his talk on Christmas themes in Luke and Matthew, spoke about the vulnerability of a baby born in a stable, making the contrast that Luke’s gospel “is like an aria, everyone singing all the time” while Matthew’s gospel “is much gloomier with Herod wanting to kill the baby.”

A vulnerable Jesus did not rest well on my mind years ago when I first heard these talks. I had been taught Jesus was strong, all-knowing and all-forgiving of my shortcomings. On that drive going from what felt like one world to another, I began to realize that vulnerability cuts both ways: Jesus coming in the form of a baby and Jesus hanging on a cross. In these scenes vulnerability isn’t just encouraged, it is modeled for us by Jesus from birth to death. Jesus opened himself up to everyone, being vulnerable and taking the ensuing risk each situation offered – who am I not to follow?

Popular culture doesn’t encourage vulnerability, preferring to push the narrative of self. Jesus was so countercultural. His embrace of vulnerability is echoed in the lives of the people I knew who died that week. They lived full lives, accomplished many deeds, touched many and through those transcendent moments continue to be present in the lives of those still here.

Sitting in the pew in three different churches I realized I had been more influenced than I realized by popular culture’s love affair with self and privacy, not being vulnerable, not letting people in, not taking a risk.

For example, I will cook for the bereaved, pray for any request, serve in whatever way I can, but I seldom ask for prayer, or say I need much of anything. I seldom admit my own vulnerability. I don’t want to take any more risks, instead telling myself there is too much to lose. Driving home from one of the funerals, I realized there is so much to gain. I had wandered far from Emmaus, far from who I had known myself to be.

In the words of modern day mystic Bob Seger, “The ashes smolder and the fire is soon gone, we end up cold and only on our own. I’ll take my chances babe, I’ll risk it all, I’ll win your love or I’ll take a fall.”

While this might not seem like an engraved invitation, this is exactly that: we are invited to take the risk, be vulnerable and be amazed at what there is to be known.

“As the Father has loved me so I love you, remain in my love.”

Recipe for a Life Well-Lived

1)  Take the life you have been given and open it carefully. You don’t want to miss the wonder it has for you.

2)  Add experiences that can be found at the intersection of vulnerability and risk.

3)  When you have enough, process the mixture with a combination of gentleness and forgiveness.

4)  To this mixture add humor (not too much of the self deprecating variety, it tends to sour the mixture). Stir well.

5)  Add blessings and burdens, laughter and sorrow. Blend well and bring this to your Creator on a daily basis.

6) Repeat these steps daily.

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