Monday, January 05, 2009

The Big V

I've had a very interesting start to this New Year. It seems like a lot of shifting and shaking and then settling has occurred in certain relationships and now things seem a little clearer and obvious. By clearer I don't necessarily mean better or improved or enjoyable- but a lot of hidden things have been brought to the surface.

Cream will rise to the top, but so will problems and old issues. Maybe it's like doing some much needed house cleaning and you suddenly find out that back behind your stove, things are pretty bad. But you can now deal with it (such as invite your friends to come over and see what a lousy stove-cleaner you've been). Or clean it (in stoic silence and nobody will be the wiser after you've done your cleaning). Or just decide to ignore it (in which case the world won't fall apart at the thought of your dirty stove and neither will you).

Last night Abby and I watched the first half of Tess of the d'Urbervilles on Masterpiece Theatre. Abby wasn't too sold on this gloomy look at Victorian England's morals and biases, and by the end of this first segment aired, I decided "Enough!" as well. It is beautifully filmed and there's some interesting symbolism and authorial protests about the time, but it's also just plain depressing.

One television critic aptly described what was bothering me the whole time I watched the movie- it was Tess's "perpetual vulnerability" that seemed to haunt me, encourage me, scare and plague me. How vulnerable do I want to be? How vulnerable should I be? And what about the sub culture we're in- and how it defines vulnerability? Some people call it being completely honest and transparent. Some people think it's foolishness to be so vulnerable and overexposed. Some people prey on other's vulnerability and some people praise it. In terms of computer security, vulnerability has to do with a weakness in the system whereby you are open to a lot of problems, bugs, and viruses.

I'm not sure Scripture talks much about this trait of vulnerability, even though many professing Christians seem to be characterized by excessive vulnerability. (I could even be one of those confessing vulnerable ones). It certainly isn't listed as one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, for example. If anything, I almost wonder if Jesus was alluding to this susceptibility to unnecessary exposure to trouble when He said to "be as wise as a serpent and as gentle (innocent) as a dove" (Matthew 10:16).

Both of these comparisons intrigue me and challenge me. It's not exactly a comforting thought to be compared to a snake in anything (unless you happen to be a snake lover). But it seems Jesus is getting at the discreet nature of a snake that has to plan when it strikes out and when it needs to quietly slither away. Likewise, when He mentions the dove, is He alluding to its innocence and purity ( a more obvious upfront conclusion) or something else as well? The Greek word akeraios not only means "innocent" but "unmixed" as well. And the first thing I think of is pure motives verses mixed motives.

Is vulnerability a good thing? And what about godly people, or people who are trying to know God- is vulnerability a sign of something intrinsically good in you, or something in you that is inviting trouble?

I think I often share (quickly share) some of my weaknesses, upfront, with people because it seems to set the stage better for their not being aghast, later, at what they find out about me. On the other hand, I can be guarded and private and a resolutely flaming introvert who demands privacy and a certain amount of cloistering away of my soul. At times I think I am too vulnerable, and at times I don't think I've been honest and "unmixed" at all.

Who's to say that the topic of vulnerability will lead us anywhere enlightening, but I'd really like to know if you struggle with this issue or if you see yourself clearly on one side of it. Cause all I know right now is that I have a dirty stove that needs to be cleaned, relational issues I have to sort through, and a disclaimer that all this talk of vulnerability started simply because I saw Tess of the d'Urbervilles's big eyes and vulnerable heart- and didn't know what to think after that.


Anonymous said...

I watched First Knight twice this weekend, drawn namely to Guinevere's vulnerability. Expectedly a romanticized character, I loved her forthright spirit, poetic word choice, willingness to love fiercely and wholly, knowing restraint when she saw the direction temptation-love would take...even though for a moment she fell into its arms. She seemed to have eyes for reality, a heart for love, but a strength that kept her upright when the first two warred. I guess to me vulnerability is 'fragile' pillowed by strength. Having the discernment to know when to open the window to your self, the heart's eyes to see through it even when closed, and the strength to open it when the situation warrants it---even when everything inside you is begging it closed. I think vulnerability contrary to human nature-- it's *gotta* be a God thing...~joanna

LAUREN at Faith Fuel said...

Hmmm. Interesting, Joanna. And I like the "eyes for reality, a heart for love, but a strength that kept her upright" part. Especially the part about being kept upright (referring to the vertical "still standing" meaning more than the moralistic sense!)

Susan Nelson said...

I agree with joanna. Vulnerablility to me is a kind of quiet strength. I learned the hard way that too much "transparency" leads to gossip and disaster. However, a certain transparency seems to be required in the household of faith. I John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to purify us from our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. That verse seems to tell me that in the body of Christ there should be enough love and trust to be willing to let them see the "crud" behind the stove. I struggle with transparency also. I'm great around the body of Christ but with new people I redefine introvert. And aren't those the people who need my transparency so that they can see Christ in me? I just have trouble figuring it out.

LAUREN at Faith Fuel said...

It's funny, Susan- because I have the opposite experience. I often find it harder to be around professing "believers" than I do being with people who are not professing any kind of formal faith yet. Obviously that's a generalization.But what I mean is that I have found a lot of grace, more often than not, from people who have not yet known the Giver of Grace.

Anonymous said...

In reading your responses I suddenly noted the irony of my responding to a question about vulnerability by referencing the life of someone else...fictitious, at that! As for myself, I can be very vulnerable with strangers (there's nothing to lose, right? chances are you'll never see them again! It's not uncommon to find the stranger willing to be equally candid back. God's all over my stranger both senses of the phrase)-- it's long-term vulnerability (aka trust) that trips me up.
What about the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe and was healed (Mk 5:25.. Mt9:20...)? A quiet, faith-filled, desperately hope-filled act-- but Jesus called it into the open, sharing it with the crowd. Can you imagine her insides at the moment she was called out? Or her peaceful triumph when He told her to take heart, her faith had healed her? I think sometimes vulnerability does *that*, too--provdes a cleansing, healing triumph by shedding light on areas we'd wished to keep dark. It takes the teeth out of secrets-- giving the freedom we'd sought via the method opposite the one we chose by keeping it secret in the first place. Vulnerability opens us up to forgiveness and healing...and connection. ~joanna