By Josh Reinders
What is vulnerability? It’s generally regarded as being exposed, or being made open to be hurt. Often talked about in terms of a relationship, the concept of vulnerability is often used to describe a moment when one person puts trust in another and opens up about something that they are struggling with or have been hurt by in the past. Henri Nouwen argues that “love and friendship are impossible without a mutual vulnerability.” It’s a concept that God has put on my heart a lot lately, and one I have been exploring deeply over the past few months.
Vulnerability isn’t easy. It’s a risk to share something that leads you to a place of weakness and powerlessness. You literally give control of that relationship to another person in that moment. But it isn’t until you step into that moment of vulnerability that you can come to a more intimate friendship or love with another person. It is in vulnerability where true love is shown.
Vulnerability is at the core of our relationship with God. Though we can’t choose to be vulnerable with him (since he sees and knows all of us), once we come to understand that he still loves us, in our complete vulnerability to him, we can come to understand the true depth of his love for us and truly begin to start understanding his heart and character. And vulnerability is something he uses in our daily lives, particularly in community.
We know that the Christian faith is not something that God designed for us to do alone. He designed it to be done in community, being surrounded by the body of Christ. In this way he could use others around us to strengthen and encourage us, to call out lies we believe in ourselves that we might not see otherwise, and to call us to more. We see an example of this with Paul writing to Timothy.
Paul writes two letters to Timothy to encourage him, teach him and build him up in his faith. In 1 Timothy 6:11 he writes,
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”
As Timothy grew in his faith and his ministry, Paul came alongside him to mentor him and love him as a brother in Christ. Paul shares in 2 Timothy 1 about remembering tears Timothy shed, and his personal pain at seeing some fall away from the faith. Through these letters we can see that their relationship is one built on mutual vulnerability.
And more or less it’s from this example that the idea of Forged was born. Jon and Brian had a dream where “men would live out God’s calling in their lives, with confidence in who He created them to be, where they step up to lead boldly in their community, and humbly step down to help others off the ground. It’s where men would courageously open up about their concealed afflictions, anxieties, trials, and triumphs, and be received with love, grace, kindness, and hope. It’s a dream where the community come to be defined by their love for God.” But this kind of community isn’t possible without the risk of vulnerability. It can’t become reality without those who want to enter into by saying “I choose to risk vulnerability and to trust God by exposing my weakness and powerlessness to those he’s placed in my life.”
Vulnerability is not something that comes easy to me. I’d much prefer to show the world and the community of LIFT the person that my Instagram, Facebook and Public Persona show off. The polished side that says I’m a confident, athletic adventurer. The one that says that I have a lot of friends, that writing comes easy to me, and that my faith isn’t all that hard most of the time. The one that is mostly just the cool moments of my life. But if that’s all I show, I can never get to the true depth of a relationship that Timothy has with Paul. I’ll never be able to be encouraged by others in my weakness, nor built up and strengthened in my battles, being left alone to believe lies and fight a losing battle against sin.
Instead it’s through being honest and vulnerable in my life where God begins to work in me. It takes me saying that sometimes the likes on my posts can be something I allow my identity to be derived from. It leads to me admitting that during my university days, I struggled with wanting so badly to be cool and popular (another thing I derived my identity from) with others that I would get drunk and party, and then show up at church the next like nothing happened. It’s me confessing that I’ve struggled with a pornography addiction, sometimes wondering if I’d ever be able to escape the self-hatred it made me feel and wondering if I would be completely rejected by others if they found out. And it’s in admitting the continual struggle I have with confidence and self-doubt, wondering if I’d ever feel accepted by others around me.
But once I finally took the risk of opening up, sharing my struggles through being vulnerable with some others within my Christian community, what I found wasn’t rejection. I found myself supported in my struggles, some even sharing in similar struggles to mine. God showed me I wasn’t alone, and in me risking showing weakness and powerlessness, He opened up a community with deeper friendship than I knew before. I began to see victory and pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, gentleness, grace, kindness, and love became a little easier. Vulnerability becomes easier too, simply by choosing to step into vulnerability. The fear of it lessened. And slowly God continues to shape me more and more into the man of God He intended me to become. And He’s done it using community and vulnerability.
The men of Forged aren’t perfect, but I encourage you to risk in sharing, being vulnerable and risking with them. I think you’ll be surprised at the way God could use that vulnerability to build deeper friendships, speak truth where there are lies, and bring freedom in areas you never thought possible.