the habit of weakness

“he is the most vulnerable of people.  and my experience today is much more about the discovery of how vulnerable god is.  you see, god is so respectful of our freedom and if, as the epistle of john says, that god is love, then anyone who has loved in their life knows that love forces you to become vulnerable.”

– jean vanier’s response in an interview with krista tippet
when asked, “jesus asks, ‘who do you say i am?’ and i’m wondering
how would you answer that question now at age 79.”

“so really the first meeting i had with people with disabilities, i was teaching philosophy at st michael’s college in toronto, and what touched me was their cry for relationship.  some of them had been in the psychiatric hospital, others had…all of them had lived pain and the pain of rejection.  and what touched me was, ‘do you love me?’ ‘can i be your friend?’  it was an immense cry for relationship.  this was a very different cry than my students in philosophy who just wanted to use my head in order to get on with their own pursuits.  so i saw here, not men who are wanting power or success, but it’s a cry here for love.  and this touched something very deeply within me, because it was a discovery that the cry of god is also, ‘do you love me?’  it’s the same cry.  one of the words of jesus to peter you find at the end of the gospel of john is this, ‘do you love me?  do you love me?’  so there’s this cry of god saying ‘do you love me?’ and the cry of people who have been wounded, put aside – who have lost trust in themselves, they’ve been considered as mad and all the rest and their cry is ‘do you love me?’ – and it’s these two cries that come together and i was deeply moved.”

– jean vanier talking about when he first encountered people with disabilities

i wonder at my own deflection of weakness today.  i think i am drawn to those without power for various reasons.  it may be that is how i write as well, as someone who has experienced being powerless.

do i know it of god?  do i see god as weak?  as vulnerable?

maybe that is what draws us to or repels us from jesus – his vulnerability.  he stands at the door and knocks.  if you hear him.  if you open the door.  he will dine with you and you with him.


over a year ago now, i began to feel that the pressures of my life were too great.  i had to care for my child with a disability, i was quick to anger, i was giving over to anxiety in public in a way that seemed crippling to my interactions, i was still living with the memories and grief of living through childhood sexual abuse.

it all added up to needing a cure.

a willing, helpful doctor gave me a prescription and though i’ve never felt complete peace about it, i’ve been taking it ever since.

but what about embracing my weakness?  what about it?

how vulnerable am i comfortable being?  even if my vulnerable state is too messy? what if i interpret reality with a sinister edge that may or may not be there?  how willing am i to reach out to friends or those closest to me and say, i’m weak – i need your help?

and who am i rejecting that is currently saying that to me?  how well am i answering the cry of those around me, the cry that echoes god’s heart –

“do you love me?”

i listened to this interview with jean vanier yesterday.  he is the founder of this community.  and it was so good.  it’s wonderful to hear out a person who is living life with eyes set to honor the marginalized.  he calls such a life, “becoming human.”  and if you have five minutes to spend getting to know just a bit more about him – watch this short video called – become weaker.

the conviction i walked away with after watching the longer interview was – how am i numbing pain these days?  my own, the pain of others – how am i pushing the ear plugs in real deep so that i’m not too disturbed by the cry of those in need, of myself in need? i’m wondering how much more i’m interested in keeping up a strong front versus letting those around me know that i’m fragile, that i am weak.  letting those i love and that love me know that i am not perfect, i need help, i need you.

i am like the man with the withered hand.  jesus says come here and i do.  he asks me to stretch out my hand.  the one that i keep so close.  the one that i hide under my clothes. the one i pretend i do not have.  jesus stands near with love like i’ve never known and so i stretch out what i don’t want others to see – and i am healed.

i’m praying about these things.  i’m letting them reside.  they’re taking up residence, moving in and unpacking their boxes, setting up their things.  i want to find the truest jesus, follow the most real one.  vanier’s words strike at the core, they are counterintuitive and bold- and yet spoken with so much humility.

much like the holy spirit.

it seems a barely tread trail through the woods towards home.  i want to try to follow it.

linking up with emily and ann today…

9 replies on “ the habit of weakness ”
  1. I am so struck by his words, that God cries, “do you love Me?” So struck by that. Thank you for sharing it. As for vulnerability and medications that may help us to live and help others in our life… I think each person has to seek his or her own way, with the help of God. I don’t think He is averse to easing our pain. To helping us in the midst of our difficulties. And speaking as one who suffers a chronic illness with often no relief to be found, medically, from my pain – pain and its consequences can often create its own armor. We can become suvivalists – merely existing. Not much room for vulnerability, there.

  2. I think that we are most like Christ when we sacrifice our need to be strong and accepted by everyone and become His “broken” vessels. He does something wonderful with our brokenness, our vulnerability. I think that is what you are longing for. And it is a beautiful pursuit, Zena!

  3. becoming human…i like that…i work with kids with disabilities …on some level i understand even when i only spend 8-10 hours with each how it will weigh on you as well….and of numbing the pain…

  4. “so there’s this cry of god saying ‘do you love me?’ and the cry of people who have been wounded, put aside – who have lost trust in themselves, they’ve been considered as mad and all the rest and their cry is ‘do you love me?’ – and it’s these two cries that come together and i was deeply moved.

    this deeply moved ME. the fact that God is vulnerable, i had never thought of it that way before, but oh He is. He has to be the absolute meekest being, infinite in His power, yet reining it in to humbly ask for our love. what a wonderful reminder of God’s love for me–i too easily forget. i cant tell you how this went to the depths of me. and dealing with some of the illness you speak of myself, i relate, friend. thank you for sharing this.

    blessings in His grace,


  5. I love this story but my own opinions are that when we are vulnerable we are not weak but brave. It takes a lot of letting down our guard and love back. Jesus is full of this and he does it with grace and never fails. Thank you I love your webpage keep up the good work.


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