The Intense Vulnerability of God


For most people, vulnerability is not the first word that comes to their mind when they think about God. Usually, people go one of two directions: theological or personal. The theologically minded say words like omnipotent and omniscient. Those who take a more personal route to God say words like loving, good, and grace. But for me, as I move in a direction ever closer to Him, I am regularly astonished by His vulnerability.

Genesis leads with God crafting a world and then humans made in His image to live in it. Not as dolls in an elaborate dollhouse or puppets to be vulnerabilitymanipulated on a stage. He makes humans, who like Himself, have the power of choice. At any point, they can walk away. And they do.

Some might be tempted to say Yeah, but then He cursed them. I tend to read the curse as merely a statement of how things are going to be outside the garden. We are going to have to work hard. Men will have power over women. Women are going to go to great lengths to get men to want them. Childbirth (and child-rearing) is physically and emotionally grueling.

To focus on the curse is to ignore the great lengths to which God goes to re-enter into a relationship with us. He loves us. We reject Him. This is the whole of the Bible. In the end, some of us accept Him and the rest wage a war against their own Creator.

God risks rejection over and over. He speaks to us in a still small voice rather than in a mighty, overpowering voice. He is a God who invites. Not one who forces relationship.

In an article I read in Psychology Today on the topic of vulnerability, the point is made that we suffer from two core vulnerabilities. This is not the heartwarming kind of vulnerability that Dr. Brene Brown is writing about in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Though if you haven’t read her book, you might want to consider it.

The point of the article is that our deepest fears center around either a fear of a lack of safety or a fear of failure (shame). Every fear and weakness we have centers around those primal terrors. I am in danger of being killed or hurt in some physical way or people are going to see me as a total failure. Homelessness frightens some because they cannot imagine the lack of security. Others fear homelessness because people will see them as poor and shameful. Either way, every human grapples with these two deeply ingrained instincts.

And then God comes in and He gives up His safety so we might be saved, and He relinquishes His honor to take on our shame.

God is born as a baby in a stable to a poor couple who then must go on the run from a murderous ruler. Jesus, the man, has no home in which to lay His head. He then suffers a gruesome whipping and death. This is the vulnerability of God to the terrifying dangers of the day. The point is made that He could have sent for angels to halt his execution. But He did not.

We are so afraid of injury and deprivation.  I know that I am, at least. Apparently, women suffer from this fear a bit more than men. Estrogen results in a need for security while testosterone blunts it. But who is more vulnerable to disease, poverty, and early death than a baby? I think of the young Syrian boy washed up on the shores of Greece. Or the countless starving children around the world, victims of war, injustice, and greed. And thenVulnerability Jesus as a baby, hunted by Herod. It boggles my mind that God, whose main attributes are omnipotence and omniscience, would face the worst perils from infancy to adulthood than humans can face.

And that doesn’t even touch the second core vulnerability, shame. When I was in kindergarten, I stole a marshmallow bunny from the basket of another child and bit its head clean off. I still remember the horror of my mother with a bit of cringing. Such a little crime. And I wasn’t even at the age of accountability.

But the fear of rejection, the fear of being shamed or failing or just looking stupid drives us to ridiculous lengths. We erect false fronts because we are afraid. What if someone gets to know us and then decides we aren’t worth it? Sometimes that kind of rejection can take decades to get over. We people please or bluff our way into relationships without ever revealing who we really are.

But Jesus showed us the very nature of God. He took no for an answer humbly. He did not apologize for who He was. Even the Bible contains no justification for God. He does not try to prove that He exists. He does not explain His actions in self-defense. He uses vulnerable metaphors to explain how He feels about us. He is father, mother, brother, husband, and lover.

And in return, we exposed Him to the worst public ridicule and betrayal that one can suffer. Judas betrays Him with a kiss, and humanity convicts Him as a liar, then hangs Him on a cross on a thoroughfare with a sign above His head mocking Him as king of the Jews. The trial, the crowds crying Barrabbas, and the religious and governmental heads hand Jesus over to His fate to a dishonorable end.

And then Jesus goes to hell. Who knows what kind of horrors and shame lurk there? Hundreds of thousands of people claim to have had near-death experiences. Some recount going to Heaven; some refuse to discuss it. But a few will admit to going to hell. I knew a pastor who had gone to hell after he had been in a car accident. Well, he wasn’t a pastor at the time, but he sure came around once he got a second chance at life. But Jesus takes the ultimate penalty, the ultimate shame, and rejection by God, Himself.

vulnerabilityI don’t even understand how that works. God went to hell for me in the person of Jesus Christ. Talk about a mystery.

So what about all this? The vulnerability of God is for the Christian the new mode of operation. We love our enemies. We turn the other cheek, go the extra mile. We feed the poor, give help to the helpless, love the unlovely. If we move with the same meekness of spirit in which Jesus moved, we too will be mocked. The world admires a winner, someone who takes control. But God hands over control to us every day.

Here is my love, my abundant life, the power of my Holy Spirit, He says to us. Will you follow me? And then He waits for our answer. To follow Him is to be vulnerable to the sorrows of this world, as He mourns the lost. To follow Him is to be vulnerable in giving, of ourselves, our wealth, our need for acceptance and safety.

But those of us on the Calvary road know the real secret. To die is gain; to live is Christ. The safety and recognition the world offers is fool’s gold. We want the real treasure.

Some books that reoriented the way I conceive of vulnerability:

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Dissociation: The Curious Case of the Missing Heart

20 Replies to “The Intense Vulnerability of God”

  1. God is so good. I had never thought about vulnerability, but this is such a beautiful and thought-provoking article. I can see how vulnerable God is, and I’m so thankful for His vulnerability.

  2. Its interesting your comment about man’s fear of failure (Shame). I see this a lot as an Interior Designer…clients afraid of being judged for their homes. Yet, God created beauty in the garden, our first home, not to impress us but to afford a relationship between us and him. Our homes should do the same…yet we fear other’s opinions more than value the relationship we can have when we let ourselves be vulnerable, exposed, perceived as less-than.

  3. I loved how you pointed this out. This is indeed the beauty of the creator God and His Son who paid the ultimate price for my sin.

  4. Alice, you made me love God even more! Beautiful!

  5. Interesting, I had never thought of God as being vulnerable, but now I see it. It is a beautiful thing though. I see so many struggling, including myself, from those 2 fears you mentioned, and they can rule our lives if we let them. May we see ourselves as God does, not as we fear others do!

  6. I never looked at God as vulnerable, but you’re right! He faced what we fear and because of this we don’t really have to fear anything. This is so comforting and encouraging!

  7. Lately, vulnerability seems to be the topic of discussion. I really love how you’ve turned this topic on it’s easier by discussing gods vulnerability. We so often talk about how he is invincible. We also talk about how he has experience everything we are experiencing. Yet, I don’t often hear about how he has experienced vulnerability.

  8. I’ve often thought about the vulnerability Jesus was willing to take on by being an infant in the womb and then dependent upon Mary for sustenance. It is truly amazing the depths that He did for us!

  9. I’ve never pondered the vulnerability of God, but it’s true that He was made vulnerable for us out of sheer grace and love!

  10. kbraswell1187 says: Reply

    “To follow Him is to be vulnerable in giving, of ourselves, our wealth, our need for acceptance and safety.” Nail on the head. I have never thought of God’s vulnerability. But, it makes sense that He would ask us to be vulnerable. He is the ultimate example of how to live, love, die vulnerably! <3 Thank you for a new way of looking at our Powerful God!

  11. I have never considered God as vulnerable… all powerful, yes, vulnerable, no. I’m certainly going to ponder on this more.

  12. 21flavorsofsplendor says: Reply

    Wow! I never would have looked at God as vulnerable, but you are so right. The depth that he has gone for us is amazing.

  13. This is beautiful! You always encourage me! ❤

  14. So well written! God’s vulnerability is what gives us hope. He asks us to be vulnerable in the same way, which can be scary, but he l nods us his power and strength to do it.

  15. Wow. I had never considered this before. It really compels me to seek more vulnerabiltiy in my own life as well.

  16. Great way of telling of Jesus vulnerability

  17. “He uses vulnerable metaphors to explain how He feels about us. He is father, mother, brother, husband, and lover.” There is vulnerability in every role. Wow. Never thought of God as being vulnerable; wanting our love and companionship and in the person of Jesus, humbling himself. Thanks for digging this up!

  18. Wow! Thank you so much for writing this! (Although I’m the teeniest little bit sad I didn’t write it myself) 😉
    ‘God risks…’ – those words bring me to my knees every day! Every day he chooses to take a risk with me… How can I not be inspired to do the same?

  19. […] The Intense Vulnerability of God […]

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