Strength in Our Vulnerabilities

I had the pleasure of serving as the press secretary for a governor of South Dakota. He was a good man, a man of integrity, and celebrated for both.

Like any one of us, he had personal challenges as well as the public ones. And as we would talk about what he might share with the public and what must remain private, he admonished me (more than once), “Don’t ever let people know you’re vulnerable. They’ll take advantage of it.”

It was wise advice — at least I thought so at the time, and still think that for the most part now. But it’s also sad to think how so many of us keep our shields up when it comes to spilling private information. Social media have changed that a lot and I sometimes read some things I’d rather not know. Sometimes it’s just a cryptic message that makes my mind go wild imagining what prompted such a posting. Sometimes I want to reach out and help, but from famous to infamous to just plain unknown, a lot of folks don’t want me poking into their affairs (and, most of the time, I don’t want to poke).

It is a case for consideration, however, when we are forced by our small and large societies into silencing all of our vulnerabilities. There are often too few people we can trust with those fears we have rumbling around in our heads and our hearts. Yet, in sharing, we often discover that others have similar vulnerabilities and we can take heart that we are not alone. We might even stumble upon an answer we’ve been seeking.

In my own public and personal lives since that time in a governor’s office, I have more often than not kept my personal concerns personal. On a few occasions when I opened up to a group as a whole, I have come to regret it. The real problem with that is that my regrets have been based in the congregation, in the church. As much as churches talk a good game about caring for one another as if we are all family, the emphasis is more on family than on caring about each other.  It’s like sitting down to the Thanksgiving table with family from far and wide: some are praying to just get through the meal peaceably; others are keeping their heads bowed, as if in prayer, but are simply avoiding conversation and looking for a quick exit as soon as the meal is done; others are there to truly celebrate the in-gathering of loved ones; and others have come bearing grudges and looking for every opportunity to retaliate for some perceived and past sin against them.  An opportunity to retaliate — to take advantage of another’s vulnerability.

The challenge for me is to know who I can trust because we all change like the wind. One day I might be in someone’s favor, but the next day I’m not. And, to be honest, one day someone might be in my favor and the next day not. Those are my challenges and my sins.

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t change from one day to the next like that. And as much as I might try to cover my vulnerabilities and even deny them, God already knows. We can take heart in God’s presence.

And we can do some hard work to mimic that presence for others so that they might know how to rest their burdens, how I can rest my burdens, without fear of being taken advantage.

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