Back in June, I posted about a book I received called In the Name of Jesus, by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I said at the time that I would do a series of posts on it, and today is the 2nd part of this series.
In the first chapter, From Relevance to Prayer, Nouwen addresses the core of his identity. He begins with telling the story where he suddenly found that the mentally handicapped people around him didn’t care about his intellect in academia. Because they couldn’t read, his books didn’t impress any of them. Nor did any of the other useful things he had done in the past have an influence on him being liked or disliked. And because of their lack of deep theological knowledge, his wide ecumenical experience had no value what so ever with them. He says
I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependant on how I was perceived at the moment…These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self- the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things – and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable- open to give and receive love regardless of my accomplishments.
He believes that the Christian leader is called to offer only their vulnerable self, and that they are called to love deeply and widely because God loves us so deeply and widely through his son – not because of anything we have done – but despite what we have done…and therefore we are to do the same.
Vulnerability happens within relationship. It’s within relationship that we can share our hurts, fears, desires, successes and our failures. Despite them, we are called to continue to love and receive love. I recently reviewed the book, Relational Leadership, and did a post from it on how the leader is called to be a great story teller.
Think about some of the stories you have heard and those who tell them. Often the stories that stand out the most are the ones that contain a sense of personal failure. They have an element of embarrassment to them. They connect, because the person telling them is sharing their vulnerability. The world might say, I can do this on my own – a vulnerable person will say – I need your help. And this leads us to the act of prayer… for its only a truly vulnerable leader who will ask for others to pray for them, to help them in their areas of weakness, and ask God to strengthen them in their areas of weakness.
Within our society there is a desperate heart cry stemming from loneliness, isolation, friendlessness, lack of intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness.
In other words, our society is full of vulnerable people, people who have a desperate need for leaders to step into the gap and speak life into their vulnerabilities,because these leaders know that despite their own vulnerabilities, they know they also have the source of all life, life which is calling them to share the real life of Jesus Christ with them.