Anyone who knows me knows that I am always armed with a Brene Brown quote. While she is accepted by a wider secular audience, in many ways her research on shame and vulnerability has many inextricable links to how God created us. Our brains are wired by emotion and the capacity to make connections with others. He asks us to see every person with compassion because He sees us this way (Exodus 34:6).
In high school, I went to this megachurch in Fort Worth. One day the pastor was preaching on Matthew 9:36-37:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
He tied these verses to this main message: “Lord, help me to see what You see and feel what You feel when You see what I see and feel what I feel.” While I don’t remember exactly what he said about the link between these verses and the following quote, this quote and verses have faithfully served as my lock screen phone background for a decade now. This concept predated me reading Brene’s most well-known book, Daring Greatly, that came out in 2012, and I read in 2014.
When I think of what God meant by “love God and love your neighbor,” I view it primarily about seeing others as God sees them. And while some people we can think of are easy to love, there are probably others we can think of that we wonder if any amount of prayer in the world could help us to see them as Jesus does.
…To see them as who Jesus came to save. As a child, parent, or spouse of someone who loves them dearly. As a person with fears, hopes, and insecurities, which may be the cause of why we struggle to see them as Jesus does. As a person who Our Father calls His image bearer. As the holiest thing we could know aside from The Creator. As Brene asks in her book, Rising Strong: “What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”
In order to do all those things, we need vulnerability. As one of my friends says with a smirk, “Vulnerability is not the dictionary definition of being vulnerable to attack, such as in a war. Vulnerability is about letting ourselves be seen by others, by being honest about what we think and feel, first with ourselves, and then with others.” Every effective team is built on trust, and trust is only built on vulnerability. But in order to be vulnerable with others, we must first start by being vulnerable with ourselves and God.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how vulnerability relates to our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus already knows our every thought. He knows our intentions before we do. Heck, he knows every hair on heads, which we ourselves do not even know (Luke 12:7). So we don’t have to fake prayer or any aspect of our spiritual lives to him. In fact, that invulnerability will only distance us.
For example, when I’m at church and distracted, I don’t need to say to myself, “Bailey, snap back into the moment. Quit making to do lists in your head. Focus on God. And maybe start learning to meditate; they say that helps with focus. Add downloading meditation app to your to do list, too.” That’s relying on myself, not being vulnerable with God about my weakness (and hilariously pretending once again that I’m really going to pick up meditation). It’s sin, because it’s turning away from God and idolizing self-reliance. Instead, I can train myself to pray this instead: “Lord, you know I just lost focus for the millionth time during prayer/worship. I know I do this a lot. I don’t want to do it. My brain is all over the place. Help me to come back to You. Here I am.”
Then when it happens again two minutes later, I go still back to prayer: “Lord, you know I’m now distracted thinking about how cute this girl’s ponytail holder is in front of me and that I want to go find one like it. Help me. I desperately need you!”
Another way I have been trying to be more vulnerable with God is starting my prayer times by admitting all the emotions I feel. He already knows them so I can just be honest and name them. This will grow our friendship with God by just speaking the words out loud. “Father, you know I’m so tired right now. I am also frustrated about X situation, and it’s so not even a big deal. I know, I know. I just want to say this as I begin. Change me! Thank you that you have heard me.”
God asks for our vulnerability, and every day we must choose whether we will model that vulnerability. When we are honest about what we think about ourselves and others, it can serve as the first step to seeing others as He sees them and feeling what He feels. Consider praying with these questions:
Am I willing to share with the people I trust about how I’m feeling right now, especially when it is hard to do so?
Or am I willing to admit with those I trust that sometimes I don’t even know how to articulate what I am thinking or feeling right now?
Am I willing to admit it to You, Lord? Will you help me to do this more?