A Missing Piece to Our Spiritual Growth

I stood there sweating as I listened to our instructor say two words that I never enjoy hearing.

Box squats.

Each time I hear these words together I start to run through a list of excuses to do anything other than box squats.

I need to refill my water bottle that’s only ¾’s full.

I slept wrong – that’s an injury, right?

I’m too tall for these.

. . . and the list goes on.

What is it about this dreadful exercise that triggers such an intense reaction from me?

It’s not the up and down motion.

It’s not that having a bar on my shoulders feels uncomfortable.

It’s not my instructor saying “Katie, don’t rock forward” every single time.

It’s the vulnerability.

Vulnerability: What is it?

Brené Brown, a secular shame researcher, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” I would go a step further and say vulnerability is that ick feeling in your stomach when you know you’re experiencing anything outside your comfort zone.

In one of her books, Brené Brown encourages the participants to consider what vulnerability is for them.  In the spirit of vulnerability, I’ll give examples from my own life:

Vulnerability is asking a friend if I have Oreos in my teeth.

Vulnerability is being a never married marriage counselor.

Vulnerability is turning thirty.

Vulnerability is asking for help.

Vulnerability is daring to hope that the next month of self-employment will be better than the last.

Vulnerability is shopping for new jeans.

Vulnerability is going to a wedding alone.

Vulnerability is every time I meet with my accountant.

Vulnerability is talking about myself.

Vulnerability is doing a set of box squats after I did the last round completely wrong.

Vulnerability is listing out vulnerabilities on a blog for the world to see.

You may be able to relate to some of those vulnerabilities or you may not, but I think they give an idea of what vulnerability looks like.  It’s a universal experience that we basically all avoid.

The problem with avoiding vulnerability is we miss out on a lot: love, connection, emotion . . . and, I would argue, deep spiritual growth.

Vulnerability: How does it impact us spiritually?

Box squats may not seem spiritual, but the heart behind my box squat experience does impact me spiritually.  As silly as it seems, box squats put me in a place where I am no longer relying on myself or my experience. A really intense, non-Christian weightlifter might argue that they’re entirely relying on their physical strength and hard work to complete a set of box squats.  I’ve been there. Not with weight lifting, but with other things that come more naturally to me.

Academics, for example, were pretty easy for me.  I wasn’t someone that could just attend class and ace every test, but I understood how to excel at academics and what is required to do well in school.  If I only participated in activities that required intellectual conversation and intense studying, I would feel pretty confident in relying on myself and my abilities.

Until I wouldn’t.

Because eventually, I would meet someone better at academics than me.  And I did… and that’s when I knew I needed something bigger than myself to find fulfillment.  That’s where my relationship with Jesus began.

Now I’ve been a Christian for a while, but sometimes I still act like I’m not a Christian.  Sometimes I still get in this routine of relying on myself, my abilities, and what I know I can do well.

It’s important for me to do things that aren’t comfortable for me.  Whether it’s saying “help, Jesus” each time I go up and down during a box squat, asking someone that seems way too put together to meet me for coffee, or actually sharing my story with a co-worker that doesn’t know Jesus, being vulnerable is a key piece of the Christian life.

Vulnerability: What does the Bible say?

The Bible says a lot about vulnerability.  If I did an exhaustive list of Scriptures that include vulnerability, this blog would quickly move into a research article.  (Don’t tempt me, remember that academic side?)

As I was praying about vulnerability, one passage seemed to fit best, which is found in Luke 7:36-38 ESV,

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that [Jesus] was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

This passage stands out as an example of vulnerability because it shows a woman of incredible bravery.  Can you imagine what this woman must have experienced in those moments before washing Jesus’ feet with her hair? Not only was she walking into a room full of men—not socially acceptable at that time—she walked in ready to literally pour everything at Jesus’ feet.  She likely gave one of her most valuable possessions. She exposed her shame. All for the sake of a moment of intimacy with Jesus.

I hope that I would have been as uninhibited in my worship of Jesus as this woman was, but likely I would have been plagued with self-doubt like the self-doubt I experience when God calls me to share the Gospel or share my story.

Many of my brave moments don’t turn out as bad as I expected.  A lot of times people are accepting and I actually execute whatever brave thing it is with relative grace.  For the woman that washed Jesus’ feet, that wasn’t exactly the case. The critics were there as expected. They were judgmental and mean.  Yet, Jesus said of her in verse 47, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Love is vulnerable.  To love much requires facing our weaknesses daily.  Then and only then we will be reminded of His strength and want to love Him and others more.

Second Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV sums up our call to be vulnerable well,

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

May we seek opportunities for weakness, so we can see the Lord’s strength.