Happy Easter and Merry Spring! The trees are blooming and patio weather is upon us. The gloom of Lent is passed, and on Easter, we celebrated the risen Christ…a God who is truly pleased when we find deep joy in the gifts He has given us. Yesterday was a HAPPY day, but it doesn’t end there.
Several months ago, I heard a sermon at Christ Church Santa Fe based on Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.
“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them…this is a gift of God…” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NIV)
This encouraging scripture reassures us that it is a good thing to find joy in the gifts that God gives us. I find one of God’s absolute greatest gifts to be community…the people in my life. And with them – I love to eat, drink, and be merry.
Forming deep relationships and close community, however, requires intentionality and vulnerability. But the rewards of being merry together are well worth the effort put into our relationships.
As I have made it no secret, my friends and my amazing husband are a gift and a deep joy to me. Renowned scholar, author, and speaker Brené Brown, in her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability states that connection with other people is the reason we are here. She says that connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. I agree. In addition to loving God with all our hearts, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-39). It’s pretty hard to fulfill that commandment without connecting regularly with the people around us. In addition, Brown says that the kind of people who have a true sense of worthiness and a strong sense of love and belonging [in community] are those who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I totally agree.
The verse that inspired this blog, Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” When we know this deep love of Christ, our sense of worthiness is brought to a whole new level.
Brown says that people who have a true sense of worthiness are ‘whole-hearted’. She says that what these whole-hearted people have in common is a sense of courage. She points out that courage and bravery are not the same. Courage comes from a Latin word and the original definition was ‘to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart’. Brown says that these whole-hearted folks
“have the courage to be imperfect with each other. They have connection as a result of authenticity. They are willing to let go of who they should be in order to be who they [are]. The other thing they have in common: they fully embrace vulnerability. Being vulnerable is the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first…the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…the willingness to invest in relationships that may or may not work out.”
This kind of whole-heartedness, based on courage and vulnerability, is an essential building block for the best of friendships and the tightest of communities.
There are plenty of great examples of holy vulnerability in the Bible. In her article, On Why Being Vulnerable is a Beautiful Thing, based on John 12, Caroline Coleman names a few examples: Mary, as she pours valuable perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. David, with his “desperate honest vulnerable cries for help” in the Psalms. And, of course, Jesus as he cries out to His Abba Father on the cross. According to Coleman, Jesus encourages all of us towards a life in which we make ourselves vulnerable to God and to others.
“He’s saying that true fulfillment doesn’t come the way we think it does – through our striving, achieving, conquering and acquiring. True joy and fulfillment comes through sacrificing ourselves for others. It comes through being vulnerable even to those who reject us. It comes through pouring out ourselves for others, and trusting God to fill us back up.” Coleman continues, “We can embrace others in love, not needing anything from them, because our hearts are overflowing – our cups runneth over – with the love of God, a love that we find only when everything else in the world fails us. This is abundant living.”
So, as Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 states, let’s embrace the abundant living that God encourages. I find this sweet way of life to be best amongst my community of friends and family. And when I remember that I am always worthy because of the wide and deep love that Christ has for me, I find it a little easier to be vulnerable…to connect with others in a way I can show them my love…to find that whole-hearted courage that brings authenticity to relationships.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5, Verse 20 says, “God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” So this Spring, find a patio or a table where you can soak up the gift of community with friends and family. With gladness of heart, pour yourselves into each other.