There is something vulnerable about being photographed.
You smile. Or so you think. In fact, you are so certain that you didn't blink at all. But then you reach for your friend's phone to look at the screen and, inexplicably, the face reflected back at you is contorted in a strange expression you didn't know you possessed. Demands for deletion ensue.
(Oh, does this not happen to you? I have a piece of official government photo identification that proves it happens to me all the time. Also, while I'm writing in this parenthetical aside, can you believe how wonderfully normal Scarlett Johansson looks in the above photo? I know; celebrities are just normal people, after all.)
As the shutter snaps, you are at the mercy of the moment. You want to say you trust the judgement of the person who took the photo, but, in an age of digital permanence and social media proliferation, let's face it: that is an exorbitant amount of trust.
Now a photo is one thing, but, over the past year, I've become aware again of my intense dislike of true vulnerability.
And I wonder if I have made an idol, a functional god, out of avoiding hurt.
I think I have really believed that the reward of exercising wisdom is to circumvent pain: if folly leads to bad decisions, regret, and heartache, then wisdom must lead to good decisions and a heart preserved from pain, right?
In an all encompassing way, I have desired safety -- a life free from disappointment, pain, and hurt.
But I learned a long time ago that the world is not a safe place and that people, in particular, are not safe. It's an observation that makes sense in a world stained by sin. I don't know about you, but that's what I learned from watching two and a bit seasons of The Walking Dead: "Fight the dead. Fear the Living." Zombies, disgusting and decaying, may eat your flesh and kill you, but humans are frightfully worse -- humans are capable of calculated betrayal, torture, deception, and murder, all with a conscious understanding of the pain they inflict. Zombies may mindlessly feed on humans, but humans will knowingly feed you to zombies. Fear the living.
I think I have often lived like a person in a zombie apocalyptic world. I have taken the responsibility of self-preservation on my own shoulders. I tend to view disappointment as something I could have and should have avoided, something within my control. I have viewed vulnerability as a liability, believing that people can only hurt me if I allow them to. Distance and, with it, the elimination of any possibility of getting hurt always looked so much more appealing.
This has an illusion of wisdom, but, in the end, it is a selfish way to live.
And it is a position that is untrue and bereft of the gospel.
I am nowhere near as strong as I may seem to be. And I am not a better person for not risking vulnerability. I am also not in a safer position, though it may feel that way. The truth is that I am poor and needy. I am a desperate person. A vulnerable person. I am a person utterly dependent on God's grace. He is sufficient. I have also never been in control of all the variances of my life. I have, however, entrusted myself to the One who is in absolute control of all things at all times. He is trustworthy.
Jesus Christ chose to be vulnerable, knowingly agonizing and dying on the cross for the redemption of needy sinners such as myself. The sinless Son of God emptied himself and became poor. His body was literally broken on two slabs of wood, intersecting at right angles, a cross. J. I. Packer writes of this, "It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, who through his poverty might become rich."
What safety is there in love?
I remember slowly. Because of Christ, because of his death and resurrection, my salvation is certain, my identity rests in him, my eternity is secure and, one day, I will be safely home. Vulnerable no more.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:4-11).