13 December 2013

Immanuel: God's Great Act of Vulnerability

I wrote this for SIMNiger's bimonthly newsletter.  Based on the feedback I got from my colleagues, I thought I'd share it here.  Only twelve days till Christmas . . . and regardless of cultural traditions, it is the day that we who follow Jesus have set aside to remember His birth.  He came into this world humbly, and that is how He lived.  We have a lot to learn from His example of humility, compassion, and, yes, even vulnerability:

It’s starting to feel like each term has it’s own theme.  As the first year of my second term draws to a close, it’s become obvious that this go around is all about vulnerability.  Many of us subconsciously define vulnerability and weakness as synonyms . . . but I continually face the reality that vulnerability is actually quiet strength.  

Living vulnerably requires courage and risk.  It is blessing at the risk of pain.  But God calls us not to a life of self-protection, rather of self-denial.  The Christian Life demands the Death of Self,  and if I am to live as a disciple of Jesus, I am called to follow His example of a life lived out in the quite strength of vulnerability.

I have a patient that I’ve been working with since July . . . lets call her Fatima for the sake of this story.  She’s four years old, and was severely burned on her face and hands by hot water . . . a punishment by a mother with significant psychological issues.  Despite her deformities and disfigurement, Fatima is a bold, confident child who struts the hallways of Galmi Hospital as if she were our Shigaba (the Big Boss).  

But this wasn’t always the case.  While she has presented herself without hesitation or fear from the first day we met, since her injuries she has refused to talk to anyone but her Granny, a typical symptom of the experience of trauma.  

Silently trusting her medical team, Fatima has undergone painful dressing changes, multiple reconstructive surgeries and the agonizing journey of the burn wound healing process.  As a four-year-old, she doesn’t have much choice.  She cannot make her own decisions.  She is forced to live at the mercy of others . . . a trust which was already violently broken by someone who should have been protecting her from such pain.

The other day we were walking through the hospital, hand-in-hand, and I began to wonder at the bond formed between therapist and patient . . . about the world of vulnerability that she lives in and the trust she has chosen to extend.  

And that made me think of Jesus.

Because He was four once too.  

The King of Universe . . . the Word of God who became flesh was a child.  Jesus didn’t just show up on earth making the blind see and the lame walk, spending time with outcasts and putting Pharisees in their place.  Jesus didn’t arrive on the scene in time to save the party with His amazing winemaking skills or wow the crowd by bringing the dead back to life.

No, Jesus came into this world the way we all do: vulnerable.

I wonder what the Magi thought as they came to hail a King who toddled out of a humble carpenter’s home.  A vulnerable little boy was God’s answer to the curse of sin on this world?!

But what amazes me is that His vulnerability didn’t end after His bar-mitzvah . . . even as a man, Jesus lived out an example of quiet strength, placing His trust and even His life in the clumsy hands of His disciples. 

Remember that time He went to pray . . . He needed them, and they fell asleep!  Or when His dear friend Peter denied knowing Him . . . three times in a row!  And then there was Judas . . . the ultimate betrayer.

Jesus risked it all when He left the perfection of Heaven for this earth, the dominion of His enemy.  As a vulnerable baby, Jesus’ life was in the calloused hands of a wood-worker and his teenage bride, who fled their home country as an evil king hoped to get rid of this new Messiah by slaughtering all the baby boys in the region.  He risked it all when He went out to fast in the desert, allowing Himself to be tempted by the first angel ever expelled from Heaven.  And in the ultimate act of vulnerability, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father and bore our shame in His body on the cross that was meant for each of us.

We can step out in vulnerability, not because we are strong, but because we have a High Priest who has led the way.  We have a Master who lived as a blessing at the risk of pain.  We have the Spirit of the King who remains with us, hand-in-hand , walking us through the valleys of this life.  

As I giggle with Fatima each day, I am reminded how the Savior of the world was presented to us as a gift of vulnerability, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.


John said...

Deb May The Lord be with you this holiday season, my wife and I were just having a discussion on what a heart you have to be able to have the courage to be away for the Christmas holiday. Talk about vulnerability you are for sure a great example of the love Christ shared while he was here on earth,and still is giving us today through people like yourself. GB

§abri said...

Thank you for sharing openly your life and heart with all of us and through that choosing to be vulnerable and allowing God to use you. You are such an example !! Your life and ministry touches us and challenges us in so many ways!! I miss you :o( ! Love ya !! Your sis :o)