Those ten unprepared virgins. Silly little girls. Did not even have oil in their lamps when they KNEW there was going to be a wedding.
What about that time I knew I was having houseguests and somehow did not have enough pillows. Seriously? Who does not have guest pillows?
And the poor guy who buried his talent. Oh man does he get reamed when the boss got back!
But what about my fears? My insecurities? My what ifs? What if I try and look silly? What if I am ready to reap the harvest, but no one will go with me? What if others disagree with how God called me? What if I get the wrong oil for the lamps? Maybe safer to just be quiet. Maybe better to wait and see what others have in their lamps. Don’t want to stand out.
Oh. If it were only about guest pillows. Walmart is only four minutes away.
But it’s not. It’s about being poured out for others. Broken open so we can share our oil, water, food, clothes, pillows. Surrendered in Christ enough to see past our own brokenness to the part God wants me to play in God's wedding ceremony.
But surrender is difficult in a world that tells men to be strong and powerful and women to be quiet, sweet, and pretty in their femininity. I know that rubs the wrong the wrong way, but the truth of it remains. Our culture, even as we fight the stereotypes of masculine and feminine, continues to fight back against us all.
Surrender requires a level of vulnerability that Western civilization does not permit. It asks the masculine to be open and honest about fears and weaknesses in order to grow into God's man and fully use his talents. It suggests the feminine wake to the beauty of her strengths and step into her giftedness unapologetically in order to keep her lamps full.
But those are fearsome requests in a world that humiliates such vulnerability as weakness and arrogance, respectively. Yet it is exactly what God calls us to. The grand risk of vulnerable living in surrender to our need to grow our talents and step into our gifts!
Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, says this about the apparent weakness of vulnerability:
Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in a torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And, yes, we're taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there's no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness (emphasis mine).
Such refreshing words!! Every time I step into my gifts/strengths as a woman, I risk exposure as a failure. I could be wrong. I could make mistakes. Worse, I could be shamed by others (women and men alike) for having the gall to think such a one as I should do more than look pretty and be supportive of others.
Every time a man steps back and examines areas needing growth or shows tenderness, he puts his entire life on the line. He risks humiliation (by men and women alike) for having surrendered his man card.
But there is no equation in which vulnerability = weakness. Rather, it is great strength to defy stereotypes, to risk critics, to be who God calls us to be.
And I would suggest this isn't just about masculine and feminine stereotypes. It's about racial stereotypes. Socio-economic stereotypes. And so many others. When we step out of the zone that is comfortable for others, to where God is calling us, we surrender ourselves to a level of vulnerability that carries great risk. Grand courage is inherent in that risk.
I adore the men in my life who, though sometimes fearfully, continue to dig their talents out of the field. They offer them up to our Lord God Almighty and let God wash the dirt away and grow the gifts of the talents in, for, and through them. The journey I am honored to walk with these men of God is delightful and beautiful and wonderfully wild!
I find it incredibly difficult at times to keep my lamps full. Keeping them full means I have to show up and play my part at the wedding. A central and valiant part. I have to be fully seen in all my glory and brokenness. But when I do, oh, the joy as God parades God's tremendous glory through both! The women who help me sustain my oil supply are treasures.
The one common factor for all of us struggling to remain in our vulnerability is surrender. Surrender to the God who calls us into our vulnerability for God's love. Because, and here is the greatest beauty of it all, when we stay in our cocoons of protection from vulnerability, we also miss the greatest love of all: God's everlasting love. So pouring myself out for others results in discovering the greatest love of all for myself: God.