Comedian Steven Wright once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.” He was being funny, of course, but this is something to which I can really relate. I hate failure. Even worse, I hate it when others know I’ve failed.
My fallback position is usually to keep the facts hidden. If I’ve bombed, I’m not interested in telling anyone. If I can, I attempt things when I’m alone. That way, if I fail, no one else will have to know. The bottom line to all this is very simple. I don’t like being vulnerable.
“I hate it.”
We Christians talk a lot about vulnerability. It’s one of the things I hate most about being a follower of Christ. I’d prefer no one mention the option of vulnerability at all—but they do—all the time—and I hate it.
Fred Rogers was an alumnus of the seminary I attended. You might know him better as Mister Rogers. He once said, “Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.” Don’t you just hate him? (…just kidding…)
I might be able to explain all this vulnerability away if it wasn’t for Jesus. He becomes God Incarnate—deity in the flesh. He doesn’t just show up one day, either. He comes by way of the normal process—pregnancy, birth, and childhood. What’s more vulnerable than a preborn child or a newborn infant?
He maintained an atmosphere of vulnerability during his adulthood—sharing his feelings, hurts, and joys with those around him. The worst of it came when he offered his life for us (talk about being exposed and vulnerable). How do you follow in those footsteps?
He had no subordinates.
And there was that incredible moment the evening prior to his death. At Gethsemane he told Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34) He perspired drops of blood and asked the Lord to be relieved of the task at hand. His openness was showing. Most guys would not have admitted their anguish—especially to their subordinates.
anyone his subordinate. He set aside his equality with God and became a servant. (Philippians 2:5-11) His willingness to be susceptible to the Roman Empire (and our sin) was unimaginable. The evidence is overwhelming. He left it everywhere.
I fail all the time. My worst failure is probably my failure to be vulnerable. Still, in my strongest moments, I refuse to destroy the evidence. If only I could always be that strong.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]