The Grace of Vulnerability

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me..
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Cor. 12:9-10

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

 In seeking to minister to or care for others,  our willingness to become vulnerable can also be of tremendous value. For, listening with our hearts requires a letting go of pride and a seeking to meet one another eye to eye. Knowing that each of us is but one or two steps shy of finding ourselves in a similar circumstance. In this way, we begin to glimpse our commonality and walk with others in the challenges that this journey of life can bring. 

Recently, I sat down with a beautiful family who had just lost a loved one to suicide. As they spoke I heard and experienced the ache and yearning of their questioning souls to probe the reason why. Confusion, regret and intense longing to turn back time had consumed their thoughts and added a profound layer to their grief. This path I knew very well having lost my own brother to suicide 20 years ago. Should I become vulnerable and share, or merely listen and help them through the funeral planning process?

Sensing the Holy Spirit’s urging and guidance I realized that this was indeed a moment for vulnerability. And as I did, visibly their tension eased a bit, each leaned in and God’s grace filled the room. Rather than speaking in overwhelming detail, I touched on our sudden and shared experience of tragic loss. A rip in the fabric of family, suicide is a death considered socially and religiously unacceptable making the grieving all the more difficult. They needed to know, that day, that they were not alone.

Just how vulnerable should I be? 

While vulnerability can be an asset, there often is also a need for a few appropriate boundaries. Far from perfect, we know all too well what revealing our faults, fears, and difficulties can bring. Oversharing can be detrimental both to you and to those you feel led to help. Remember this isn’t about your need to share, as it is their potential need to be helped by what is being said. 

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”

1 Cor. 2:4

And here, though an inner prayerful conversation, is where the Spirit should be given the lead. Though you may still initially wonder if the invitation to vulnerability was well spent, God’s promise is that you will know it by its fruits.  In God’s hands our weakness becomes strength and “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  are often most fully revealed.  

Peace

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Blog Tour: A Storyteller’s Guide to Joyful Service

Joyful Service by Tone Agnesi

I consider myself so privileged to know Tony Agnesi both as a colleague and friend as well as to be invited to share my thoughts on his latest book A Storyteller’s Guide to Joyful Service. In our conversations with one another, we have truly been given a camaraderie in ministry. A treasured community whereby we not only speak but listen to God at work within one another’s life and in the lives of those whom we serve. Tony’s gift is that he not only recognizes God’s grace daily, but is able to convey this awareness and call to action in an engaging and relatable way.

Towards the beginning of my own call to lay ministry those around me would often ask  why. Why would you choose to use your education and talents where there is little to no pay and even less recognition? Aren’t there other ways to give of your time? Where these questions fail, however, is in their inability to assess the immense value in the unseen or to quantify the joy that servant ministry provides in a complete surrender to God.

“Joy is an abiding sense that God is in control..it is a gift that grows out of faith, gratitude, grace and love, the delight in being alive”. Tony Agnesi

The difficulty is that while many of us, as Christians, have no problem understanding the source of our gifts as God, we are still reluctant to hand over the reins to Him to use as He sees fit.  We seek happiness but fail to realize that we are not the orchestrators of that happiness. Rather, as Tony so wonderfully articulates,

“God has been using people as instruments since creation and you can participate simply by checking in for duty.”

And though undoubtedly you will still experience challenging times in your life, seeing God’s grace in the lives of others lays the foundation of trust for the work ahead in your own. This can be as simple as the witness of a silent prayerful gesture “of gratitude and humility” raised to heaven that ultimately “restores your faith in humanity”.  Or, it can be that graced awareness that God is asking to not only your gifts but your challenges to inspire change in the lives of others.

To serve and not count the cost…

A lofty dream you say? So some might very well think of sainthood. Quite often we place the saints on ornate gilded pedestals ignoring the reality of the lives that they had. It isn’t that their path was easy or that they were created with greater tolerance and fortitude. It is that they ceased to strive to do it on their own. Relying on Christ, they offered both success and failure to put to God’s use. And more often than not, it was in their own challenges and failures that God’s glory was the most beautifully revealed. For, in seeking God’s plan for your life, as Catherine of Siena is often quoted, you can fully “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” with love and holiness. Alternatively, Tony notes, “a lack of action will cause us to be consumed in a fire of indifference” .

This re-gifting is essential in our discipleship for it demands a free will offering. Our choice- to recognize the Creator and giver of all gifts and our conscious decision to give our yes to His will in our lives and in the world. Then even those things we do in the course of our normal day, not typically viewed as ministry, become tools in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As Tony remarks,

“We are called by Our Lord to go and make disciples of those we meet, and by example bring them into an understanding of our faith. We are called to live the faith by our words and actions.”

In doing so we may just see the difficulties we experience as the very stuff that God is using to grow us as disciples ourselves and come to know the amazing joy that God has to offer!

Peace,

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Traveling Light

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“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.  “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10:4-9

This week I was reminded of this notion of “traveling light” as I left the ministries at my local parish to join the staff for two parishes a little over half an hour away.  Having already met numerous parishioners, and attending several staff and collaborative meetings, there was little concern that I would be welcome. With open arms, warm smiles and sincere prayers I have already been made to feel, within these first few days, a part of this beautiful parish family.

With so much to take in, to learn, and experience there is an essentialness in traveling light both physically and spiritually. I’d venture to say that we often bring much to bear on our present by way of the past, yet there is such grace in encountering anew. In leaving behind our preconceived ideas, desires and perceptions, we are empty and ready to be filled to accept God’s will for our lives. We are free to allow God to take the lead with the shape and direction of our day. No need for anything that will weigh us down, or hinder us in the mission that lies before us. Does this mean that we should not look ahead, or plan for the future?  No,  not at all but rather “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Prov. 16:3

Not so easy to do, you say? I agree. For this reforming self-proclaimed “type A” who once fancied herself in knowing every detail, it is a constant turning towards Christ. Fully aware that I cannot do it on my own, I no longer want to go it solo either. In letting go of the baggage, I am seeking instead to be open for the unbelievable surprises that God has in store.

 “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 

What of the physical lightness in traveling? Bearing in mind that my lunch plans might change these initial days, I purposefully  prepared light snacks that would keep if I had other things to do.  In doing so, I could say “Yes, I’d love to grab a bite to eat!”, or “Sure, I have time to talk.” and enjoy the fellowshipping that comes along with it. For, how can others be given a chance to share of their generous hospitality if we are always so self sufficient that we are never able to accept it?

I have also been working in the last few days to pare down to just some of the essentials for my home away from home. Treasured books, pictures, and a few of my favorite saints have now found a new dwelling place where they will hopefully inspire others as well.

 What has traveling light given me?

A greater trust in God’s abundant providence, a renewed understanding of radical hospitality and a soul ready to embrace whatever lies ahead . May you too discover the graces in traveling light!

Peace,

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