On Christmas Eve morning, I received a lesson on vulnerability.
Roscoe, our special needs son, is tethered full time to a feeding tube. He can’t feed himself. He relies on this plastic lifeline no more than a few millimeters wide to bring nourishment to his body.
Of course, he also relies on my wife and me (mostly Stacey) to prepare the liquid-based food, pour it into the feeding bags, attach those bags to his feeding pump, and remember to turn the pump on each morning set to the right feed rate.
On Christmas Eve morning as we were preparing to have my side of the family arrive for a day of celebration and fellowship, Stacey discovered Roscoe’s feeding button was broken. This was not good news on this meant-to-be-joyous-and-relaxing day. It meant one of us (Stacey to the rescue here) would have to go to a nearby town to try to find a doctor on duty to replace the tube.
To make a long story filled with multiple hospital miscues short, this seemingly simple task turned into Stacey having to miss most of the festivities of our Christmas Eve family gathering. She arrived home around dinnertime after trips to two separate hospitals 135 miles apart to get the button replaced.
To make matters worse, I took over the chili-making tradition in Stacey’s absence and my attempt was so spicy most of us had sweat beading on our foreheads as we ate. I often joke that Stacey finds a glass of water without ice cubes too spicy, which is only a mild exaggeration. So here we are on Christmas Eve with Stacey very tired and very hungry arriving to a meal only a fire-breathing dragon would enjoy. Not a good husband moment for me.
As I did my best to navigate that day with all the disappointments, annoyances and even a bit of anger that our Christmas Eve plans had gone awry, I thought of Roscoe and whether he was annoyed or not, like me. Stacey said he was happy as a dog with two tails.
I thought how can that be? He is totally dependent on flawed humans and flimsy feeding tubes for his very life. Perhaps he isn’t even aware of his dependence on others.Would he be annoyed if he knew his condition? I don’t know. I just know he is almost always happy in the midst of his constant vulnerability.
As followers of Jesus we often think of vulnerability as something we must choose.
But is it?
I don’t think so. Vulnerability is the reality of our lives and we can no more choose to be vulnerable than we can choose to breathe or not to breathe. We are utterly vulnerably dependent on God for our very breath and life.
Our challenge is not to attempt to be vulnerable; it’s to not attempt to be invulnerable.
We like to think of our spiritual life as mostly something for us to do. But, I’m finding I actually grow the most when I stop doing what God didn’t create me for in the first place. It’s when I try to become something more that my growth stagnates. He didn’t create me to be independent. He didn’t create me to avoid suffering. He didn’t create me to build my own kingdom. He didn’t create me to be in control.
Almost all of our suffering is a result of our attempts to avoid suffering.
We strive to forget our mortality. We paper mache over our pain. We adopt relational strategies to stop all the yelling, and lose our voice in the process.
Like Roscoe, our natural state is one of dependence and utter vulnerability. Our greatest safety lies in being in union with Jesus. I think if we can bring down our defenses and dismantle the lies we believe and false ways of living we’ve used to avoid the pain of what has hurt us, we can begin to suffer well, to suffer as Jesus suffered. In fact, when we stop pretending and building protective fortresses and avoiding whatever causes us pain, it’s there that we encounter Jesus and suffering becomes redemptive.
Psalm 90:12 reminds us to number our days. We should continually remind ourselves of our own mortality, to always have in mind our utter dependence on God for every breath. As we number our days, we learn to stay present to not just the reality of our mortality, but to what’s real in every area of our lives. It’s through this attentiveness to what is that we develop a heart of wisdom.
- In what ways have you tried to turn vulnerability into a performance?
- How does reminding yourself you are already vulnerable draw you nearer to Jesus?
- Why do you think “numbering your days” would lead to a heart of wisdom?