In the following post I am using the word ‘vulnerability’ in both the traditional negative sense (one who is unprotected and susceptible to harm, a victim) and in the more modern, positive, relationship-building sense (one who is purposefully letting down their guard in an effort to be soft-hearted and approachable; in Biblical terms: gentle, meek, compassionate, tenderhearted).
When I was a child a sexual abuser took my hands and led me into a prison of shame. The church, at their opportunity to rescue, offered a cursory glance. They ran their eyes down the train of molested little girls who had experienced violence by this same teen-aged young man, looked at me when my turn came for notice, and responded with…
You’re not enough, I heard. And we don’t care.
This is how it is, far too much of the time. A church staff that is confronted with sexual abuse will frequently sideline the vulnerable (the child) and play to the “strong” (the perpetrator). The perpetrator, you see, requires of us less vulnerability. It’s easier to focus on the perp than on the child he victimized, and we do. We focus our attention, the conversations, the responses, the repentance, the restoration, on him. The perpetrator fits into a box and tending to him makes us feel as though we are doing something. We can apply a formula – or he can – and we will feel as though everything’s smoothed out.
But the victimized child? She’s unchartered waters. She’s raw and broken and we don’t know what to do with her pain, or with her experience. Her neediness asks of us something quite uncomfortable, and that uncomfortable thing?
Lest you think the above scenario is unique to abuse, let me cast a different angle on the world in which we live. Bodies are swept up, dead, on beaches, you remember. Babies are dismembered before they get a chance to be born. Children are tossed from home to home. The mentally ill endure constant stigma. Homeless beggars make us squirm. And refugees? Hundreds of thousands of terrified refugees are seeking shelter while we sit around deciding how few to let on our shores. We are straining out gnats while swallowing camels, we are focusing on the perpetrators (the instigators), making graphs and charts and formulas, assessing involvement costs to ensure we won’t feel a pinch, and we are leaving the vulnerable behind.
Vulnerability is risky. Unsafe. We can’t contain it, we can’t predict it. We’re not sure where we’ll end up.
But if we cannot choose vulnerability, we will never be able to mourn.
And if we cannot mourn ourselves, we will never be able to mourn with anyone else.
Vulnerability leads to mourning.
Mourning leads to comfort.
Comfort leads to healing.
Healing leads to wholeness.
And wholeness is Christ.
Mourning is vulnerable. But –
Blessed are you who mourn, Jesus says.
This post is part of Survivor Songs, a 31-Day series. A full list of posts is found here.