Vulnerable in the Face of Evil

Nothing is more to be feared than too long a peace. You are deceived if you think that a Christian can live without persecution. He suffers the greatest persecution of all who lives under none. A storm puts a man on his guard and obliges him to exert his utmost efforts to avoid shipwreck.  

—St. Jerome 


I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Navigating this whole social media/ blog thing is new to me. I struggle with how much to share and how much to keep to myself. Exposing my feelings regarding my faith makes me feel vulnerable, a state I’ve avoided most of my life, like a petulant toddler whose bedtime is fast approaching. Yet, vulnerability is what Christ modeled throughout His life. You can’t be any more unprotected and lowly than an impoverished infant refugee, or a naked, savagely-beaten man exposed to the elements hanging on a cross being ridiculed. 

Those striking images of our omnipotent God in positions of weakness came barreling home with the news of the most recent shooting at a Baptist church in Texas. One of the accounts said the victims ranged in age from 77-years-old to 18-months. That baby, along with the other 25 victims, showed up for Church on Sunday anticipating, at the very least, some songs and smiles. But they could not have expected how profoundly vulnerable they would be rendered when a man in black S.W.A.T gear unleashed unthinkable inhumane violence. They could wage no defense as they were mercilessly mowed down. In honor of those poor souls who were stripped of all security in their safe haven, I’m tapping away again on my computer. I am reminded of their unimaginable Christian witness of innocence and vulnerability in the face of such evil. It puts my own concerns about sticking my Catholic neck out from time to time in the right light—a non-issue. 

Before my kids left for school this morning I broached the subject with them. We don’t watch broadcast TV, (never fear, our screen time quotas are met with Netflix) so the news they get is usually second hand from other kids or family members. My oldest, whose antennae seem to instinctively sprout when trouble happens once learned of another shooting rampage during the prayer petitions in mass. He looked at me wide-eyed, his mouth forming the word, “Wha—?”  I was struck with guilt for lying in order to protect him from stories of such inexplicable barbarism. After church, I had to dig my way out of a hole that he was convinced was much bigger than I was letting on. Since then, my husband and I have resolved to let them hear the news from us first. 

I calmly told them there was another shooting. This one was at a church. Again, with the wide-eyed look, followed by the most obvious question, “Why did he do it?” I answered honestly. “I don’t know.” I wanted so badly to wrap it up into a neat little bow and tell them this would never happen again and that we are all completely safe. 

I wanted to spare them the sinking feeling I experienced when I reached the age of about 13 or 14. I had hit my final growth potential at a mighty 5’2” when it dawned on me, in a painful flash, that I would be smaller than the majority of the world’s adult population for the rest of my life. Up until that point, I was resolved that once I moved out of childhood, I’d be home-free. No one was going to push me around. When reality set in, I felt like a tiny ant in a land of hulking giants. That’s probably how my kids felt when I told them about the latest shooting.

A big part of our humanity is being vulnerable. We are vulnerable to unforeseen health problems, abuse, disasters, violence and finally death. I’m not saying we should EVER come to expect this kind of tragedy in our world, but the victims in San Antonio are a reminder that no matter how much we grow, how much we follow the rules, how often we take flights, attend movies, church or country music concerts, we are always vulnerable. 

Several years ago, I attended a retreat. It consisted of a series of talks given by a group of women in which they laid bare their life struggles and how they had strayed from the path to God. This was new for me. In fact, I had never heard anything like it. People were honest, brutally honest with absolutely no barriers. They shared their darkest secrets. In the face of their raw honesty, many walls I had strategically built around my own heart were knocked down, obliterated even. Exposing their weaknesses, these women did something to me that no amount of force or power could have ever accomplished. 

Jesus doesn’t appear very powerful on that cross, but when I stop and consider how vulnerable He chose to make himself, how weak he became for our sake, more towering cement barriers are busted down. I have no doubt we are being tested in our world today. And we will continue to be tested. No amount of human force or strength will ever put an end to that. But as Christians, we know that it is in the testing when we are rendered low and weak, that we can finally summon true strength and ultimately triumph. In the meantime, I will comfort myself with the image of that precious 1-year-old running with abandon into the arms of our all-powerful Lord and Savior.

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