Radical Vulnerability in Relationships Discouraged
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, just released his new book, Scary Close. Last week this book went to number 5 in the New York Times Best Seller list. I’m so happy to see this and hope to read it soon. Basically, Miller won me over with its premise: dropping the act and finding true intimacy. The more we hide who we are, the less we will live out of the greatness God put in us. This book promises to share how he lived out being himself no matter what the cost.
I was thinking recently how as Christians we actually move people away from this type of relationship by making our love conditional toward them. If they act the way we want or expect, then the relationship moves along just fine, but as soon as they step out of line or push our fear buttons, we begin the process of isolating from them. I believe we are not only creating the dynamics where people are afraid to be themselves, but we are encouraging lying and also putting people in jeopardy of falling into major sin.
How Are We Accepted in Christian Society?
Here is how I see it. We give people a list of what Christians should and shouldn’t do. When they open up about how a certain task is either hard to stop or start, we point them to Scripture about why we are right, and tell them they just need to suck it up. Our fellow Christian is left feeling defeated without an awareness of how to succeed.
Let me explain with a personal example. I’ve shared several times how I have struggled with pornography. While my wife and I were only dating, I told her of my struggles and she immediately broke up with me. We ended up getting back together after she had me promise never to look again. She naively thought I could turn it off easily, and I naively thought that after seeing her pain, I would never do it again. When the struggle did come back, I was too scared to let her find out. I was even afraid of telling friends because somehow they may tell my wife and then she would leave me.
Now plenty has happened in both of us since those young years, and I can never blame someone else for my decisions. No matter what other people do, I am responsible for me. My point is that we do this all the time with people. We try to scare people into making Godly decisions. We may get immediate behavior change from them, but fear will always create the atmosphere where they feel they have to control their behaviors on our own instead of letting God lead them to His healing.
How to Create Room for Vulnerability?
God leads us to healing by His kindness. If we are to create places where people can be healed, we need to overflow with love for them no matter their behavior. Love does not seek to expose sin, but it covers a multitude of sin. It’s like a band-aid. We cover people’s sin with our love, so that the healing process may take place.
Love creates the atmosphere where radical vulnerability can be risked. Unconditional love makes it possible for people to be scary close. It is in this openness with one another that we can bring things into the light to get our healing and receive complete acceptance.
This is not just confession of sin. There may be Christians who really enjoy the taste of beer, thrive at super competitive games, are skilled at writing dark fantasy, etc. What areas of society might Christians thrive if they had the freedom to explore. This is not an open door to sin, but there are things that are labeled sin too soon in the conversation. What if a Christian wants to go into politics? 🙂
I have been trying to develop and live in these types of relationships for a few years now. It doesn’t mean I never trip, stumble, or fall down. What it does mean that I will get back up and continue to move forward. And, when I do have a setback, I know I can and will bring it into the light instead of letting it fester in the darkness.
I wish I were perfect. I wish I never hurt others. However, I am still in process, but in my process I know God still thinks I am amazing. I know this because I have people in my life who know all the dark areas and still believe in me. May you seek and find these kinds of relationships for yourself. May you give this kind of complete love to others in your life. I truly believe this is where the next major move of God is going to come: living in radical openness and allowing Holy Spirit to be released in fully in you.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.