The Vulnerability of Being Human

The thought struck me while staring out the window. My hands dipped in soapy, crummy water. Scraping away the remains of an earlier meal consumed and already forgotten. My head slightly ached from thinking, but I breathed in the spring air coming through my open kitchen window and stared at the fence marking the edge of our yard.


We are so vulnerable.


I first remember feeling the weight of vulnerability in second grade. My passion for Jesus and missions was flying high as I approached the desk of my teacher with hand-written salvation tract in hand. If my heart was banging a little faster than normal, I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until she glanced at it and dismissed it with a “that’s nice” that I felt that beating organ drop a little further in my chest. In less than a second, my whole life’s passion had been waved aside by a “that’s nice” I knew she didn’t mean. I felt silly. I felt like a failure. I felt… something that I couldn’t put a name to. We are so vulnerable.


I felt that way while walking through Chicago in the dead of winter, passing thousands of unknown faces, all hunkered down into their jackets, scarves, and hats, staring at the sidewalk, letting the bitter wind whistle over, around, and past their layered clothes. Knowing that deep down they were cold, but still they pressed on. Behind the wind-reddened faces were countless stories I hadn’t and may never hear. We are so vulnerable.


I remember the time I watched my dad outside the living room window. He was doing yardwork, and in a few seconds, the fate of my life would hang in his branch-trimming hands. What would he say about the boy who had told me he liked me? Would he be mad? Would he be okay? Stepping through the front door with hands in my pockets, I told him as awkwardly as possible. And he grinned a silly smile, and I began to grin as well. We are so vulnerable.


I remember how that crush wasn’t only a crush. It was love. And how my parents’ thought we weren’t ready for that yet. How for a season, I didn’t talk with the boy who loved me. How for a season I couldn’t be sure if he even still did. How I spent every other minute wondering what he was doing and how he felt about me. Wondering if it would ever work out. How I felt sick and depressed and angry at God. We are so vulnerable.


I remember how during that time, I got physically sick. How the hospital couldn’t tell us why. How my mom sat near my head, held my hand, and prepared herself for calling the family to say goodbye. How my heart rate soared and my fever worsened and I couldn’t hold my own weight. How my heart rate and fever just as suddenly went back to normal. How a nurse taking me to my MRI told me he would pray for me. How my dad bought me a Snoopy stuffed animal. How I ordered hummus and couldn’t eat it for feeling nauseas. How I told my mom while I lay in a white bed how much I loved the boy I hadn’t spoken to in so long. How the doctor’s told me I couldn’t go on my mission’s trip to Papua New Guinea. And how much I didn’t understand God. We are so vulnerable.


I remember the time I watched a young man sing his heart and soul out for God at a little talent show in a small wooden tabernacle on a hill beside Lake Michigan. The young man had a disability and didn’t hit a single note, but I cried my heart out and realized that even in the brokenness, God is good. A little girl who had been through more than I ever had sat on my lap and wiped away my tears and we talked about heaven and how nice it would be to see each other there one day. A man who could barely use his arms or legs made an effort to reach out his hand to me, squeeze my own ever so faintly, and smile a smile that only angels could fully appreciate. We are so vulnerable.


I remember loving a boy. A boy who had turned into a man, not by accident, but by choice. And how this kind of love was new and how it was thrilling and how it was scary all at once. We talked about the future and what that could look like and how we wanted it to be with each other no matter what else may come. I waited for a ring. And I said to myself, “What will next year at this time look like? Will we be married? Will we have kids? Or does God have something completely unexpected planned? Something that I won’t like at all?” And I cried at the thought of not being able to control the future. But I also remembered how God had controlled the past. We are so vulnerable.


A ring came. And with it joy. And with joy, work. And with joy and work, change. I held my baby sister longer and my five year old sister and I had picnics in the play-fort and I gave my sixteen year old sister my special ring and we both cried. My mom and I sat on the kitchen floor often, and dad would look at me with a mixture of sadness and pride, and I felt like my heart would burst from the change. I took more pictures. I wrote more words. I absorbed more memories and looks and dialogue than I knew how to process, and so the excess often came out in tears or laying in my grandpa’s fields. I was happy. I was sad. We are so vulnerable.


A wedding day came and for the first time ever, I got to play the bride. At five a.m. I sat in the bathroom and my sister did my make-up. At eight, as I got ready to walk out the door, my mom reminded me that this was my last time being a Smock at the house I had spent the majority of my life living and growing and breathing and maturing in. At the church, I got into my dress and my best friend buttoned it up. I stood for portraits. I smiled til my cheeks ached. I didn’t know how I could bear so many last moments and so many firsts all at once. But then I saw him through the window. Standing with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. His dark head slightly bowed and his dark eyes looking steadily, evenly forward. My head pounded and my eyes were wet. I loved him so much. I would give up all I had known if only I could be with him. We are so vulnerable.


A year of marriage went by in a flash. Every season and what it brought. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and back to Winter again. “Here we go round the mulberry bush…”  We put our whole selves out there for the other to see, and our love became deeper. Not without misunderstandings. Not without embarrassment. Not without humbling ourselves and saying sorry. But with much grace, understanding, and a love deeper than good days only. I wasn’t only in love with him, I was proud of him. Beyond what I could have imagined. And knowing that he felt the same about me… how could I feel so much joy? How could God be so good? We are so vulnerable.


But there were other changes that were harder. And most of those involved the changes happening inside of me. Those involved the day to day grind that every human is faced with; feeling alone in your friends, feeling not good enough, hearing unkind things said and taking them to heart. Messy house, messy thoughts. Rushing here, rushing there. Always wondering about the future. Always wanting to be better. We are so vulnerable.


These were the thoughts that I found myself thinking while staring out the window with soap on my hands and vulnerability in my heart and in the hearts of every human on the planet. Sometimes, life is just a lot to handle. The good, the bad. The emotions, the facts. We are human. We are affected by our surroundings, by other’s opinions, by the cold, by the rain, by the amount of dishes stacked up in our sinks, by politics, by our hopes for the future, by our haunts of the past, by our possessions and our peers and our friends.


There are so many “Top Ten Ways to Get the Man of Your Dreams” articles out there. Along with “How You Know You’ve Found the One” opinions. There are suggestions for healthy diets. Warnings against vaccines. Thoughts on parenting. Pinterest solutions for a messy house, capsule wardrobes, and do-it-yourself’s.


There are so many people out there to please and with opinions on how to do that. So many people with opinions of you. Some that may think better of you than you think you deserve. And some that, no matter how hard you may bend over backwards, just don’t like you at all. There are situations to handle that feel impossible. People, circumstances, and things that will drag you down.


There is so much pressure to fit in with the system. To have your college education, a career, the home of your dreams, the distinguished business husband, the two Gap kids model children.


We are so vulnerable, but we try so hard to hide it.


How often do you find Instagram accounts where every post is a picture of cobwebs in the corners, several-day-old pancake batter splattered on the counter, children screaming their heads off? When do you find captions like "I thought I was content until Becky posted about her new house," or "I can't seem to get on top of things and really don't know what to do?" How often do you find the really vulnerable moments that can make or break your character?


How often do you ask someone “how are you doing?” and they say, “honestly, I feel so fat compared to the girls I see on tv and I’ve been skipping meals just to try to be something I’m not.”


You don’t find articles listing the “Top Twenty Ways to be Vulnerable.” Vulnerability is what we do best. But it’s something we don’t usually acknowledge.


What is my point? My point is only this. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel you add up to the perfect blogger mom who has a recipe and hair product and child-rearing answer for everything. Don’t beat yourself up when a circumstance leaves you feeling hurt and unworthy. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel strongly or care deeply or love unconditionally. We are all so vulnerable.


The world, and even Christians, portray their standard as perfection, but God portrays Himself as perfection, and the only perfect one out there is Jesus Christ.


So be vulnerable. But be vulnerable in Jesus.


What does that look like? It looks like praying. Giving Him your cares and concerns. Your insecurities and your failures. Your joys and your strengths. Your future and your past and your present. It means telling Him, “I know I am not enough, but I also know that you are. I know I am like the flower of the grass which today is alive and confident and happy, but tomorrow will be blown by a fowl wind and begin to doubt and shrink and wither. But I also know you are the gentle rain that gives me life and sustains me through every season. I know I may feel countless feelings, but I also know that you are always with me through each and every one. I know I am vulnerable, but I also know that you are more than enough for my emotions and my beating, trembling heart.”


We live in a time when vulnerability is weakness. But it doesn’t have to be weakness. It can also be strength. Strength to reach out to the one in a similar circumstance as us. Strength to love even when it hurts. Strength to come along side another and work through trials and tribulations together. Strength to say “not anything that I have done, but only you Jesus.” Strength to admit fault or love firmly or discipline the rascal child. Strength to be humble and wash the feet of those around you.


“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…”


If I had waited twenty years to write this, who knows what I could have added to my list of vulnerabilities. Only God knows what my life and heart and soul will hold.


But for now, I will wash dishes. I will use the rawness and reality of life not as something to place behind a wall and put a flowery wallpaper over, nor to shout it obscenely from the mountain top. It isn’t something that has to be covered, but it also isn’t something that needs to be a showcase. It is something that needs to be recognized and utilized for the glory of God. Use it to bless those around you. To say “I have been there too, brother. You are not alone. You are never alone.” Use it as an encouragement even to your own heart. We are all in this together.


We are all so vulnerable. And those who believe are all so forgiven, known, loved by the God who made Himself vulnerable for us by becoming a vulnerable man, having vulnerable words spoken about and against Him, dying a vulnerable death, and rising again in a tangible way in which the vulnerable holes in his hands and feet could still be felt and touched.

Vulnerability is not weakness. It is finding strength in the Lord.
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

1 Corinthians 1: 26-31