14. In the Lindisfarne Community, we are willing to be out on a limb, to be vulnerable. In doing so we always run the risk of being rejected, which is at times an intense form of suffering. Nonetheless, to that we have been called. Jesus was the most vulnerable on the cross and in our discipleship we willingly embrace the cross — to be vulnerable, to be out of control, knowing the freedom that vulnerability brings.
Being vulnerable. That’s difficult for some people. Some of us are pretty guarded. We’ve been hurt so deeply that we don’t trust people the way we used to. We’re suspicious of even those who are closest to us. We “know” that they could, at any moment, hurt us again. So, we guard ourselves. We try to be the people we once were, but the damage is too great. It take years before we become trusting people again. Sometimes - a lot of the time - we never trust people again. We remain distant. Guarded. Broken. Some of us have even changed the “Golden Rule” to reflect our new way of being, “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
There are others of us though, who live in a constant state of vulnerability. We have our “hearts on our sleeves,” as the saying goes. We’re too emotional. Sometimes, even the slightest thing can bring tears to our eyes. We give and give and give. It doesn’t matter if we get hurt or trampled upon.
Other people look at us in these groups and label us as “strong” or “weak,” respectively. But, let me let you in on a little secret...
It’s the people who are seen as “weak” who are actually the strongest. It takes a very strong person - stronger than others even realize - to be vulnerable. We see this played out in so many ways. From the person who “turns the other cheek” in a physical confrontation to the one who continually loves others but gets treated like a “doormat.”
But Jesus was very clear about these things. One just has to read through the “Sermon on the Mount” to see his take on it. Those “in the world” resort to hurt and abuse to get their way, but Christ’s admonition to us is not to be like that. To follow Jesus, we must put away our own selves for the sake of others. And, if that means being treated unfairly, so be it.
The difference is that we are making the conscious decision to not react in the same manner. We are choosing the “road less traveled.” We are choosing the “narrow gate.”
As I edit this, today marks the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, i.e., the government sanctioned murder of children when G_d came into the world through the birth of Jesus (and one can’t help but add the children and adults recently murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the unnamed children who are killed daily through war, starvation, disease, etc.). As we know, Jesus was born in extreme conditions to an unwed mother, a child herself (by today’s Western standards, that is). When Herod the Great was notified by the Magi that the rightful King of the Jews had been born in the small town of Bethlehem, he dispatched soldiers to “kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger” (verse 16; see all of Matthew 2).
This tells us a lot about G_d. G_d didn’t become human in a grand and glorious way. Quite the contrary. G_d became human in the most vulnerable of ways during a very hostile situation. Once more, G_d stood with the vulnerable. As a vulnerable person. To vulnerable people. During a hostile and violent time. For the sake of creation.
Furthermore, Christ’s whole life and ministry was one of vulnerability. His closest friends and followers were seen as the outcasts of society. He exemplified a way of non-violence with love as it’s core - love for G_d, love for neighbor, and love for enemy. He not only taught this way of living, he also walked it and taught his followers to do the same. He was mocked, rejected, and ridiculed at almost every turn. For all intents and purposes, he was a “doormat.” Once, when he was rejected by a city, the “Sons of Thunder” wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn the place to ashes. They were openly rebuked (Luke 9.51-56). At another time, during his capture and arrest, Peter tried to defend him by attacking Malchus, the slave of the High Priest. During the attack, Peter cut off the man’s ear. Jesus again rebuked this behavior stating that, “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26.52). That is, violence only creates more violence.
Throughout the life of Jesus, we see vulnerability again and again. Likewise, those of us who follow Jesus are called to live this same type of life. A life that sides with the rejected, the outcasts, the sinners. A life of non-violence in the midst of the violent world around us. To walk The Way of the cross and daily, moment by moment, lay down our lives for our friends and, yes, even our enemies.
Being vulnerable is not a weakness.
It is strength personified.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC