One of the most amazing parts of being a Christian is the constant reminder and reality that God loves me and pursues me even when I royally screw up, don’t act myself, reject him and especially do not deserve that love.
The fact that God chases after me even when I turn away or fail to spend time with Him is baffling. In a secular world, we push away people who disappoint us. We tend to reject people who don’t love us well. We are “so over” people who continually mess up and who we feel don’t deserve our attention. Outside of a Christian context, we’re hesitant to give second chances. If we do, we view it as a pretty big favor and we expect something in return—at least eventually.
The idea that nothing separates me from God’s love (Romans 8:38) and that God continually pursues me (everywhere in the Bible) feels so countercultural that I often fail to draw proper metaphors that really grasp at that idea. In Christian culture, we call this idea “grace.” It’s not its literal secular translation of “blessing.” Although it is a blessing, grace in a Christian context more means someone (in this case, Christ) loving us and showering us with forgiveness even though we don’t deserve it.
Usually, I compare God’s love for us to the way (good, healthy, stable and loving) parents care for their children. My mom loves me even when I yell at her on the phone. My dad loves me even when I don’t call him back. Sometimes, I compare it to a best friend. My best friend Vanessa from college would love me even when I wouldn’t clean my room or would come back from class in a bad mood. My current roommate showers me with grace when I forget to take out the trash or don’t return a piece of clothing I borrowed from her. [I’m sensing a theme… Am I messy and irresponsible?]
I have noticed that grace goes hand in hand with vulnerability. I believe our most grace-filled moments only happen because we have the courage to be vulnerable. When I am able to be honest, raw, authentic and vulnerable, others are able to step into that, empathize, forgive and shower me with love even when I don’t deserve it.
That’s how it is in a Christian context, too. We receive Christ when we humble ourselves before Him and tell Him we need him, that we’re a mess and dead in our sin without Him. In that vulnerability, he showers us with grace and gives us new life.
You see, it’s not enough to admit that we’ve messed up, that we’re broken, that we’ve failed, that we’ve totally disappointed someone. We need someone to hear us and say, “that’s okay. I still love you. Even though you’re not perfect, and maybe don’t deserve it, I still love you.”
Vulnerability is empty, lonely and heartbreaking without grace. So many times I’ve opened myself up to get a measly, “that sucks” in reply, or an awkward red face and a quick subject change.
A real vulnerable moment within a real vulnerable relationship happens when both people can be raw and respect, encourage and love each other despite the vulnerable musings. A real vulnerable moment includes grace.
But there’s another element that real vulnerable moments require: the ACCEPTANCE of that grace. We have to let someone love us even when we don’t deserve it. We have to hug them back.
That’s the other amazing thing about being a Christian. Though the Holy Spirit pours out his grace to me infinitely—literally every second of every day since I became a Christian as a kid—it’s incredibly difficult for me to accept that grace. I still strive to show God how I’m being a good person, how I can measure up, how I’m not thaaaaat bad. I’ll hide my mistakes, my insecurities, and I stray at all costs from being vulnerable.
Day by day, I re-learn how to accept His grace. Because it’s hard as crap!!!!!!!!!!!
Being vulnerable, demonstrating grace, accepting grace…. That’s intense and difficult stuff. Why should we bother with all that? It sounds emotionally draining and terrifying. Why not just take the safer route, you know, like relax and just talk about the weather?
I promise you, if you embrace vulnerability and grace, demonstrate these characteristics in your interactions with people and chase after people who exude that vulnerability and grace, too, your life will become infinitely more fruitful, stable, secure and purposeful.
In January, I started dating someone. That’s a first for me since sophomore year of high school so you could call it a BFD (Millennial talk for Big Fucking Deal, AKA significant life moment that then takes over social media and becomes the essence of superficial party talk and quick catch-ups with old friends). The past four months have been filled with countless vulnerable moments. [We’ve also watched a lot of stand-up comedy and talked about shoes, so I mean, I’m not saying every interaction needs to be all SERIOUS. I’m just saying it helps!]
But dating him has validated that it totally IS hard to be vulnerable, gracious and accept grace, but that it’s so worth it.
My boyfriend lives out grace and vulnerability every day with me. He will sit there and rub my back while I have a breakdown about something super stupid. He will tell me to “take my time” when I send him a long text about how I’m running 30 minutes late. When I forget to ask him about something, he’ll smile and thank me for remembering at all. When I get stressed out, he’ll listen to every word I say and validate that feelings and worries are real. After a long day at work and sweaty workout (without showering), he’ll tell me how proud he is of me and how beautiful I look.
Long story short, I frequently roll up a mess and he’s like, “you’re great. I love you!”
Like, what the heck?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
I don’t deserve that!!!!!!!!!!
At first, my responses sounded like something all the lines of, “You are too nice. That’s not true. No, you don’t need to do that. Don’t say that. Just stop. Go away.” Etc. etc. etc.
Like, what the heck????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
But it’s so hard to accept grace!
Over time, I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty hurtful when I don’t accept the grace poured out to me. My boyfriend used to respond sadly, “I really mean it. Don’t you see how much I care?”
I bet that’s how Jesus feels all the time when we don’t live our lives purposefully, joyously and abundantly in the grace he lavishes upon us every day.
I’m grateful to have a boyfriend, but not because we get to post cute pictures together or because sometimes the title means I can force him to pay for my dinner occasionally (who am I kidding the guy pays all the dang time because he’s too generous), but because I have someone who is so committed to vulnerability and grace.
I’ve learned what a gift it is to create space for someone else to be vulnerable and for me to lavish grace upon that person. It’s almost more beautiful to sit with someone in their vulnerability and love them than it is to be vulnerable yourself.
When both people are being vulnerable and gracious at the same time, it’s like this insane explosion of love, joy and purpose.
But I didn’t need a boyfriend to experience these moments. I can feel these moments with friends, family and coworkers, and I have.
I am blessed to say that because I have truly leaned into vulnerability, I have some absolutely amazing relationships in my life. People often ask why I love people so much and prioritize people over everything else.
It’s simple. People have trusted me with their messes. And I’ve trusted them with mine. And we’ve graciously loved each other despite our messes. And that bond is freakin’ infinite.
I love others through grace and vulnerability because Christ first loved me through even greater grace and vulnerability. Because he loves me all the time, no matter what, I feel power to love others all the time, no matter what.
Now, let’s be clear.
It’s not like I’m great at this. I fail all the time.
At my current job, there are so many times I would put my head down and work instead of asking how someone was doing. In college, I failed to follow through on relationships or didn’t say the right thing when someone was vulnerable with me. I close myself off to some people because I fear rejection. I can be too vulnerable sometimes and not vulnerable enough other times. I often reject grace and become insecure and a people pleaser.
But this Easter season, I am reflecting on just how lovely it is when I am able to embrace grace and vulnerability. And I am praying for each and every one of my readers that you all find a life and people filled with gracious and vulnerable moments. They’re out there. This life is within reach. You just have to believe. You have to let go of this false notion that to get love you have to be perfect. We’re all a mess. And stepping into that mess, sharing it with others and receiving abundant grace leads to a life of relationships, wholeness and purpose.
Do you have people in your life with whom you can be vulnerable? Do you have people in your life who will be vulnerable with you? More importantly, are you able to shower that person with grace, and does that person shower you in grace? Do you accept it?
PS: If anything I said made you confused or curious, feel free to reach out! My contact info is on the side of the blog. I love hearing from you all J.