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Thursday, August 07, 2014
I was told by God today to blog about vulnerability. I wanted to tell him to get lost, that I felt too vulnerable, but you know, it is GOD.  Vulnerability gets a bad rap because, let’s face it, it can make us feel uncomfortable! Have you ever looked up the dictionary definition of the word vulnerable? Of course I did, because I love words…and you can find a ton of them in the dictionary. One of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary online is “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” Another definition is “open to attack or damage.” With these general understandings of this condition plaguing our psyche, who would ever choose vulnerability? Who would ever choose to be open to attack or damage?

I can imagine that the person who came up with this word was very familiar with the down and out version of this condition, the kind that can make you feel like staying shut in and never venturing out in the world. Although appealing to many of us introverts, it’s truly no life of filled with a richness and diversity that only comes when you step into that wild expanse of experience that is this thing called life.

It’s easy for me to feel vulnerable. It’s part of the unknown. My life is full of examples of a diametrically opposed experience—life gets too stagnant and I desire to shake things up, but then the change makes me feel like digging a tunnel and making friends with the spiders and other frightening creatures that like tunnels. Lived in Germany for a summer as a study abroad student, and I covered small-town city politics as a journalist. Both experiences made me feel a heightened sense of "YIKE!" but I wouldn't do without those experiences. They both defined me.  

Vulnerability is what happens when we live life outside the tunnels. Being a pastor is a vulnerable feeling. You want to do right by the congregation, but you’re acutely aware of how human and prone to mistakes you are. I was reminded by the Divine Spirit that being vulnerable allows us to take care of the human being within us, the part that needs care. I was also reminded that feeling vulnerable makes me highly aware of “doing no harm” and how can that be a bad thing as a pastor.

Sunday’s scripture focuses on the early years of Jacob’s son Joseph. This story has always fascinated me. Joseph was not popular with his brothers. He is presented as a boastful young boy who was always shaking the “favorite” card in his brothers’ faces. Apparently, the consequences of those actions caused him to be sold and eventually sent to Egypt. The story will go on to describe Joseph’s adventures in Egypt, which lead to him actually saving hoards of people from starvation.

So let’s get this straight. There is this guy who starts out as vulnerable to that which always confronts slaves in ancient times and winds up as the economic leader of an empire? Wow. Anything can happen, I feel this story is saying. We all start out saying and doing stuff that get us into trouble, we receive the consequences of those actions, but it’s those actions that could actually make us leaders. The vulnerability of being in danger can actually help lead our lives.

I have felt vulnerable going out on the city streets, but I have never felt unsafe when I know the hands of God surround me. Joseph knew this too. He knew that God used a very vulnerable situation for good. Never underestimate the power of vulnerability.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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