If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
-1 John 1:8-10
As I consider the place of vulnerability in God’s design, I think salvation comes through it.
No, salvation is not through vulnerability in the same way that it is through faith. The Bible clearly teaches:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
Last week, I shared 7 signs that you or I have taken our reading habits to the point of idolatry. Needless to say, it was a weighty topic. One reader described it as sobering. It had the same effect on me as I wrote it.
By my own reasoning, I’m an idolator. That’s someone who reveres or delights in something more than God.
I’ll go ahead and admit that this whole idol thing isn’t new to me. For years I’ve known and regretted that I tend to love certain people and things more deeply and freely than I love God.
I started a book again!
I hadn’t read a paperback in months and I felt guilty. Of all people, writers are meant to read.
But this past Tuesday, I finally picked up a new novel, River of Grace.
I savored it from the beginning. The pleasure of reading returned to me like a neglected friend. I rediscovered the urge to read in every spare moment, the bittersweet (mostly sweet) guilt of reading past my bedtime, the adrenaline rush when I thought about the next chance I would get to crack open the cover, the secret relief when I got stranded somewhere because of the rain and… oh well. *Sigh* I guess I’ll just have to read as I wait it out, even though there were a dozen more import things I should be doing.
In May, I posted a small excerpt from Isolated (here). I took the liberty to pick apart a certain attitude maintained by the featured character. It’s the idea that God should have done this or He should have done that or the next thing because we deserve it. It’s the idea behind common questions: “Shouldn’t an all-loving, all-powerful God have done such-and-such?”
I propose this is an attitude we have all faced or will all face to varying degrees. Yes, you and yes, me.
All it takes is one thing to go wrong. One thing. Then we start to question God.
One of my favorite words to describe content, a service, a product… basically anything is “comprehensive.” It tells me that the subject is good quality and that the creator or curator has put time and effort into even the details.
It’s the difference between a complete and thorough job and one that kind of, sort of makes a bit of a difference.
That’s how I’ve come to think of vulnerability in terms of how it relates to God making us more like Jesus. The more vulnerable we get, the more we put ourselves at God’s disposal to be conformed to the image of His Son. Here’s the illustration I have in my mind:
A new post in my vulnerability series is due. And yet, I came to today and knew I couldn’t write it.
I’ve had a rough time recently. First I came to the realization that I can’t live up to everyone’s expectations or meet every need I see. The most succinct way I can think to put it is that I reached then end of myself.
When I came to that conclusion, I thought, “It’s okay, I’ll just go to God for strength. He promises to give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak.”
But by this point, my spiritual life felt like a wilderness. I would wake up to spend time with Him in the morning – no earlier than usual – and yet I would desire nothing but to doze back off and sleep another hour or three. I would come to passages that have breathed life into me over and over, and only see letters. I would try to feel them, but I couldn’t.
Minding the house.
When a person comes to me – whether it be for a favor or to invest in a deeper relationship – my tendency is to immediately agree. I heap commitment upon commitment on myself.
It’s linked to pride, at least in part if not in whole. It strokes my ego that someone would come to me for help or would want to spend more time with me. I don’t want to turn that down. I think I can handle so many responsibilities. Not only so, but I think I can do a good job and impress whomever it is that has come to me. I think I have enough in me to do it all.
Then Louise’s mind changed gears. She thought of her parents and little sister. Are they in danger? She teetered on the verge of concern then decided otherwise. They’re the ones who should be worried. Do they even know that someone took me hostage? They should have been there for me. A knot formed at the back of her throat. Tears of hostility burned her eyes. Their God… Just when her heartbeat had begun to slow, it pulsed faster again – this time with anger. Their God should have been there for me.
-Excerpt from Isolated, subject to change in final revisions
Louise is the young protagonist in my novella, Isolated. Though she wouldn’t admit them to others, she has some strong ideas about this God, the God of her parents and sister, the God of the Bible.
She herself doesn’t love Him, serve Him or even believe in Him. But assuming an all-loving God truly did exist, shouldn’t He have protected her from her kidnappers? If an all-powerful God really did oversee the affairs of the world, shouldn’t He have intervened? If this God truly was concerned with justice and capable of executing it, why didn’t He?
It’s been more than a month since the last post in my series on vulnerability. In fact, I felt I had to go back and read all four of the previous installments to remember where I had left off and regain my train of thought. In case you want to do the same, or if you’re a new reader wondering what I’m talking about, feel free to check out the following links.
Previously in this series:
- Word of the Year – 2017
- What is it? – A Study on Vulnerability
- Walking in the Light – A Study on Vulnerability
- Light of the World – A Study on Vulnerability
The last posts contemplated the hard side of vulnerability – the exposure of sin, the shame of facing condemning truth. This living in the light business is pretty heavy.
But the last thing I want you or me to believe is that following Christ is all about being vulnerable for the sake of suffering as an end, or that we can earn God’s favor by doing so.