Strength and Vulnerability

When I think about two foundational attributes of a redeemed, actualized, mature human being, I think of strength and vulnerability.

I like the idea of strength. Not physical strength.  I don’t have much of that.

I like emotional, spiritual or relational strength.  I like giving to people.  I like pursuing people.  I like pursuing goals and accomplishing things.  I like moving into life.

Sometimes I even get addicted to it… and that’s not good.  It hurts people.  But often it is really good.  In some ways, it is a window into how God made us in the Garden.  “Fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the birds of the air, etc.”  Isn’t that strength?  Go do it – with people and tasks and projects, big and small.  Go do it!  Strength.  I love it!

But vulnerability, now that I hate.  Being needy, I hate.  Being reliant on another person, human or divine, I want to avoid that feeling.  It feels so …. Weak!

And yet it is fundamentally human.  God built us to be dependent on Him.  We are incomplete without relationship with Him.   Yet we don’t want to need or rely on Him.  We, no I, would rather do it myself.  I would rather rely on my strength, even when it is not enough.  I would rather pretend that I don’t need Him, when in fact I do.

In so many ways, I do need Him.  I need Him for health and air to breath and so many practical ways.  But I need Him in places where I cannot control things.  I need Him to move in the hearts of others.  I need Him even to move in my own heart.

I wrote a few months ago about a season of depression that felt like it had a divine purpose.  The depression went on for months.  I was doing the right things to get out of it.  But God wanted me to see how powerless I was to escape the internal sadness.  I needed Him to rescue me.  Gratefully, once I saw that powerlessness, He did.

But I need people too.  “It is not good for man to live alone.”  Not good for me to live in isolation; separate, protected, not needy.  God built you and I to need people.  We are incomplete without relationship, meaningful relationship with others.  At the end of Genesis 2, God described that relationship between Adam and Eve as “naked and unashamed.”

My problem is that I feel shame when I feel needy.  It doesn’t feel safe to admit those places I am dependent, vulnerable, needy.  It is one thing to choose to love someone else, to sacrifice and give and pursue them.  It is entirely different to let myself want them to do that with me.  I might get hurt.  No, there really isn’t a “might.”  I will get hurt.

And then I wonder why the fear of hurt is so controlling?  Why am I so afraid of giving someone else the opportunity to love me?  Why am I afraid to be vulnerable, even when I know for sure that they will let me down?

And for me, that is where God comes in again.  If I know He loves me… if I know that someone bigger still loves me even when someone here and now in the flesh hurts me, then I might be able to give them the opportunity to give to me.  But that takes me right back to being vulnerable with God.  It takes me back to risking reliance upon His love for me, in order to give someone else a chance to love me.  And that is scary too.

Only when I believe enough in His love will I be able to consistently risk while wanting someone else to love me.

Why does it have to be this hard?




Palmer Trice
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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