So you think you're tough? You think you have it all together? You think you have your feelings in check? Well, think again.
As I dined in a local restaurant recently, my heart quivered as I watched a father and his three children sitting at a nearby table. The children seemed to be enjoying their meal and trying to appear happy. I watched the dad as he frantically attempted to assure that the children had a fun time.
He asked them what they wanted to eat and ordered it. During the dinner he constantly kept a conversation going. I could tell he was a single dad wanting to spend time with his offspring. He hoped they would want to be with him more. I felt warm inside, yet I felt saddened at his predicament, one that is so common now with both parents.
I see various people shopping, dining and attending affairs of their children, grandchildren, friends and other relatives. Men, women and children are trying to show others that they care, that they are special. Although one may appear confident and poised at work or in social activities, it's when he's alone where he can no longer pretend, that you see the genuine person.
Everybody desires to be loved and shown he matters -- that he counts for something. He wants to be appreciated and applauded sometimes. You see widows and widowers trying to make the best of life and individuals who are just down. They feel they're unsuccessful and failures. They smile when they'd rather weep, put on a false front of happiness when they feel lost. Yes, indeed we are all vulnerable.
Just as Jesus showed vulnerability during his time on earth, we too are heir to the same human condition. No one escapes being in the prison of his thoughts, emotions, failures and successes. Jesus revealed sadness and gladness time and time again. Scripture says he cried when Lazarus died. He was heartbroken when the disciples, whom he believed to be his bosom friends, failed to watch with him at the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus instructed them, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: stay here and watch with me." (Matthew 26:38)
Of course we all know the disciples fell asleep and Jesus was deeply troubled. He was vulnerable. Then he asked his Father, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt." (Mark 14:36)
Jesus turned to others for support and help, just as we do when we're in pain.
People are delicate and emotions are fragile -- even the tough guys or gals. You've noticed how they treat their spouse, parents and children -- with such tenderness. They, too, yearn to be included in what goes on at home. For sure, we're all vulnerable.
What is so admirable about most is that few want to take credit for revealing those tender emotions of love, caring, giving up one's time, and rushing to help when there's a need. Scripture tells us to "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you," and to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Why? Because our hearts are soft and easily hurt within -- but so prone to forgive.
We are all trying to fit ourselves into whatever mold we must while seeking a degree of joy and happiness. Everyone follows some sort of spirituality, or at least a belief system of some kind which he bases his life's course on. But rest assured he's vulnerable. He's often crushed when a friend or loved one excludes him from an event or ignores him? If you are completely self-reliant and hardened, why care?
To be vulnerable and to show kindness is a wonderful and desirable trait. It is life-giving, because wounds eventually heal and goodness is reciprocated. God presents the greatest reward of all -- that of eternal life.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.