As a non-believer, one thing I often struggled with as I wrestled with Christianity was the idea of weakness, vulnerability. Surely I was a “good” person in my own right, doing my best “on my own” and taking care of things in ways I think were not too shabby.
Growing up in a single parent family, and fully orphaned by 21 with no extended family other than my grandmother (who died a few years later), I learned independence and resilience at rather an early age.
The weakness of Christ on the cross, and the vulnerability of His “obedient” followers was not, then, something I found attractive in any way. It took me quite some time to see the beauty -- indeed, the perfection -- in vulnerability.
Recently I have had reason to discover the philosophy of John Vanier, a seminal player in the inception of the L’Arche Society. One writer offers these words about Vanier’s philosophy:
<< In exploring what it means to be fully human, Vanier invites us to observe the tension in our world between the pressure to achieve mastery or control, and our longing to find ways to live at peace with our own, and others’ imperfections. Where modernity privileges progress and perfection, Vanier has drawn attention to imperfection and fallibility as important and overlooked aspects of being human. Vanier believes that highlighting the universality and centrality of our shared fragility has the potential to unite us in commonality: “The weak teach the strong to accept and integrate the weakness and brokenness of their own lives.” >> - Pamela Cushing, jean-vanier.org
I have always had exceptionally (some would say “unreasonably”) high standards for myself and others in almost every aspect of my life. And, although I increasingly fail to attain my own high standards, I continue to harbour an outrageously judgemental attitude towards the shortcomings of others! Sad but true: I am a hypocrite!
My unforgiving attitude towards imperfection is something I continue to struggle with as I move towards the end of my own imperfect fourth decade on this planet.
The words of Vanier’s biographer are a germane reminder of the beautiful potential that lies dormant in times of difficulty, strife, weakness, or in those who present as weak or vulnerable.
Today I will try to water my vulnerability and that of those around me, and watch in delight as it flourishes into a lovely flower. ;^)