Being wounded is hard. Living with an amputation, great loss, or obvious disability can be a challenge on even the best of days. In our society, we are always striving to be the best. To be at the top of our game. To score the highest wages. Our society does not have much use for individuals with disabilities and oftentimes when a person who was once a long term employee gains a disability because of age or accident the company now considers them dispensable. Growing up in the Christian church, my theological viewpoint has been shaped of a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipotent. To think of God as disabled seems to devalue who God is to me. And yet, He was. Jesus was disabled at one part of His life. Think of what happened when He was on the cross – His figure was so marred beyond human comprehension that people either turned away, stared at Him with their mouths agape, or simply mocked. The book of Isaiah reminds us that Christ wasn’t a stud. He was an ordinary looking man. There was nothing in His appearance that would make people turn their heads in a crowd. Not only that, but Isaiah reminds us that He was wounded and bruised for our sins , and that He was marred to the point of not even resembling humanity any longer.(Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+52%3A13-15&version=CEB, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53&version=NASB)Living in a L’Arche community (an intentional community for adults with developmental disabilities) for the past year has presented both difficulties as well as immense joys to me. On the one hand, being vulnerable is something that I’m not very good at. It’s not something that I like doing. There are times when I can be vulnerable with my closest friends, but to think of being vulnerable with fellow co-workers and even supervisors let alone “clients” well that is beyond my grasp. Yet, at L’Arche we are so interconnected with one another that when one person is struggling, we have no choice but to struggle alongside that person (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+12%3A26&version=ESV). We help take their burdens onto ourselves. Their difficulties become our difficulties.
At L’Arche we are called to live into our woundedness daily. In order to live well in community, a certain sense of transparency must take place. In community we cease being heroes and become fellow pilgrims. We cease trying to do everything in order to make a name for ourselves and instead admit to our flaws and failures. In L’Arche no one is perfect. The core members are made up of adults with developmental disabilities ranging from semi-independent all the way up to completely dependent. From a world’s view these adults may seem useless and even meaningless…like they are not contributing members of society, and yet these are the very ones who emulate Christ’s love in such a profound way. Christ cautions us that if we do not enter into the mindset of the least of these, we won’t be of much use to the Kingdom of God.
So at L’Arche I have had to find a nice balance between naming and claiming my skills and living into my woundedness. We all come to community as broken people and we will all leave as broken people. Community is the most healing and helpful when we are aware of that brokenness and rather than simply wanting to cure it and be over with it, we embrace it and learn from it. People come to community for a variety of reasons, but in the end of the day we need to look past those differences into embracing each unique person’s story in order to live more fully into our own story.
In Latin, the word vulnerability becomes the word “wound”. To be wounded means to be vulnerable. Sometimes that can been seen in quite a negative way. For example, perhaps we have been through a difficult experience where someone we considered a close friend or confidant broke our trust and thus because we chose to reveal ourselves to that individual and thus be vulnerable we have now become wounded. On the other hand, I also believe that vulnerability does wound us in some ways. It wounds our ego, our pride, and our perception of ourselves. Being vulnerable is risky business. People may see us differently. However, if done correctly, vulnerability does not rob us of a sense of self but in fact enhances it. Because to be vulnerable means that we are able to enter into deep relationship with another without fear of judgment.
Thinking about my closest friends, I feel comfortable sharing with them just about everything in my personal life. We can talk together about our deepest fears, struggles, and urges and in the end of the day we still love and accept one another. Oftentimes my accountability partner and I admit that our relationship has grown stronger over these past few years exactly because we hold nothing back. So in that sense, vulnerability technically continues to be a risk, but a healthy one and a God honouring one.
Oftentimes wounds exist in our lives whether we realize it or not. Perhaps one may feel that now that they have opened up that their ability to be vulnerable has caused a tear in their life… but in many cases, that tear was probably always there and just not as noticeable. We all carry around past hurts and future fears, but being vulnerable allows us the opportunity to share those hurts and fears with another in community so that the weight does not have to be as heavy on our shoulders. Live the vulnerable life. Live into your woundedness.