Embracing our vulnerability also means embracing that being limited means you must accept help, for there is much you cannot do on your own. When we say God knows that we are dust, we are acknowledging there is much we cannot do on our own.
In its own way, this is the brilliance of the 12 step movement. The first step toward emotional and spiritual recovery whether from alcoholism to drug addiction to gambling problems is recognizing where we are powerlessness on our own, without something bigger than ourselves – even if it is just a wider community like the 12 step group itself, but especially if it can be understood to be God – to help us on our journey. Recognizing our need for others is then not failure but wisdom.
I think a huge problem in our society is so often it sends the message that to admit vulnerability, to confess our struggles, to reach out for a helping hand is failure and defeat. So often I find women and men in my work, but especially men who like me grew up being taught to pull themselves up by their boot straps, who talk as if they have failed as Christians, as friends, as neighbors, as spouses or parents, that they cannot bear their burdens alone and must reach out for help.
I remember talking to one who was facing crippling depression who says “I wish I was not so weak”. I turned to them and in detail pointing out all the near heroic ways they had supported their sick loved one, without asking a hand from anyone. “You are not weak. You are instead someone who has been strong all their own for far too long. Anyone would strain and struggle doing all you have done – doing less even – without a help from others. Your body and mind are letting you know it is time to allow others to stand behind you and be strong with you.”
A few images from Scripture highlight this for me.
First, is when God called Moses to lift up his arms and keep them lifted when Israel fought off the warring Amalekites. God told Moses while his arms were in the air, Israel would win but Israel would begin to lose the battle. Moses isn’t able to do it on his own. But rather than this meaning defeat, two others – his brother Aaron and also a man named Hur – lift up and hold up his hands, so they can stay up and allow Israel to win.
We all need people to hold up our arms, to join our side as allies who help us discover strength to continue through things we cannot continue on our own. We need to find the wisdom and strength to accept this help when it is offered.
Just such wisdom is at the heart of the Bible’s call to admit vulnerability, which is what it says when it calls us to “ confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. “ (James 5:13) Ultimately admitting our vulnerabilities, failures, and limitations to others opens us up to healing, strengthen, and blessing to flow to and through us because admitting these opens us up to the unique gifts and strengths others have that we lack. Their unique gifts and strengths enable them to be there in ways we cannot alone, so that with their unique help we can be there for ourselves and others in ways we never could alone. As the Civil Rights movement has often claimed, we are better together.
How have you struggled to embrace accepting help when offered or reaching out for help? In what way has embracing this call of vulnerability opened up your life in new ways?
I’d love to hear your story.
Let’s continue this journey together.
Your progressive redneck preacher,