We were walking out the door of a church last night where I had just led a meeting with several elders. I wiped my brow, grateful to be finished. Their task was to make a critical decision for their congregation; and ours was to help them do that. This is something I have responsibility for as the chair of the Commission on Ministry of our Presbytery, but this particular task, the details of which I won’t go in to, was not something I had direct experience with. As it turned out the meeting went well, and the two colleagues who led the meeting with me did a great job. But as the three of us were walking into the parking lot, I confessed, “You know, I’ve been on this Commission for six years, and now I am chairing it, but I have never led a meeting like that before, and parts of it were really tough.” Then one of my colleagues, who had recently accepted a new ministerial call herself, chimed in, “I’m so glad you said that, because it’s exactly the way I felt, and especially right now as I take on this new call.” Was it a relief to hear my colleague say that? Of course it was!
It was very gracious of my colleague to identify with me. She could just have easily said nothing, or raised an eyebrow. It isrisky to share how we are really feeling with others, and we may not want to do so with just anyone. But I have found that, for the most part, the admission of vulnerability draws others toward us. I’ll never forget the question that a senior pastor asked me as I was interviewing for my first ministerial call, “When have you experienced real failure or a need of God’s grace in your life?” I remember talking to him about some recent health issues I had been faced with and how it erased what had been a false sense of invulnerability. Whether or not I should admit these things I wasn’t really sure. Thankfully, I would have the honor of serving with that Senior Pastor, Stan Jones, who encouraged and exemplified honesty and vulnerability in those around him. When we can share with others our weaknesses, our failures, and our fears, we reaffirm our common humanity and our reliance on God’s grace. Think about Jesus who on the night of his arrest asked his friends to pray with him in Gethsemane: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus said. “Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus was openly expressing his sorrow and grief, and quite possibly his fear. Thank God “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15); but who came to us “in grace and truth.” That truthfulness refers not only to his unassailable word, but to the transparent way he lived among us.
Today I wonder again how such a God might be calling each of us to share a deeper part of ourselves in word and deed. When we can admit our own weaknesses, and at the same time give voice to our faith, it gives to those who are seekers a more authentic picture of the Jesus-style of life. On the other hand when we assert as the Church of Laodicea did that “I am rich…and I need nothing,” (Rev. 3:17) we are only kidding ourselves, says Jesus, and it makes us incomprehensible to those outside the church. May the One who came to us “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17) help us come to others in the same way.