It was a text I received from a dear friend after a weekend of meaningful conversation, and her little hymn-parody struck me as profoundly true. Trusting her with a more vulnerable version of myself than I normally put out there was a step in faith, and her gracious, compassionate, ever-loving response felt like an embrace from God Himself. It got me thinking—we as Christians would benefit from further exploration of what vulnerability can mean for our own journeys with God and the friends we make along the way.
I used to think vulnerability was just another word for weakness. If you were vulnerable, then your defenses were down and you were more susceptible to harm. It felt inherently negative and like something to avoid at all costs. No one likes getting hurt, after all.
But in the throes of young adulthood, I’m coming to understand that vulnerability requires strength, bravery, and a deeper sense of belonging. Vulnerability means opening up and revealing our authentic selves to someone we trust. It means removing the filter with which we interact with the world and letting someone see the raw, unedited version of ourselves. It means being honest and true about our dreams, doubts, and fears when it’s much simpler to just cover ourselves up.
Vulnerability requires that our defenses are down and definitely opens up the possibility that we will get hurt, but vulnerability is anything but weak. Vulnerability is a path to a more authentic life with more deeply connected relationships. With vulnerability, great is the risk and great is the reward, and until we step out in vulnerability with a trusted friend, we will never understand just how tight the bonds of faithful friendship can be. Some of us have never allowed ourselves to experience that reward, which is precisely what makes it such a difficult choice.
Instead of giving vulnerability a chance, I’m often tempted to put on a mask and pretend like I’m uncomplicated, thoroughly successful, and living without a worry in sight—even inside the walls of a church! I think the world tends to like us better the closer we seem to perfect. A lot of people get scared when they come face-to-face with someone else’s struggle, not sure of what to say in order to fix it. I feel sure that most people just want to hear that everything is great, and so I often find myself giving that answer, whether it is true or not. It seems to be easier on both of us.
Besides, it is scary to speak aloud our insecurities and fears, even to our friends! What if they judge me? What if they tell other people? What if it’s just a thoroughly uncomfortable conversation for both of us? All of these questions insist that I keep quiet, adjust my mask, and offer up another rehearsed answer.
While keeping everyone at arm’s length might feel safer, it is a lonely business and one that will stand in the way of so much growth and beauty. I speak now as someone who has lived both stories—closed off to vulnerability and embracing it as transformative—and I’m here to report: God is present in our vulnerability. Never again will I be able to separate the two.
This shouldn’t be surprising given what we know about Jesus.
Jesus spent time with many people whose poor reputations preceded them. Mark 2:16-17 tells us, “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
Jesus didn’t usually spend his time with the people pretending to be perfect. Jesus spent his time with those who were complicated, faced challenges, and that the world considered to be imperfect, and these things never intimidated him. Their authentic selves were welcome at the table of Jesus who offered healing, love, acceptance, and pointed them in the direction of a more abundant life. Even now, when we might see ourselves as too messy for the presence of God, Jesus just simply pulls up a chair and invites us to be seen, heard, and loved in his presence. When we can offer that and find that in each other, we are living out a deeper and more beautiful meaning of Christian community.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” We know that the Christian life is meant to be lived alongside people who will stand with us, grow with us, and seek to follow Christ together, but it’s worth remembering that the beauty of community is found in authentic relationships in which we remove our masks and give of ourselves in order to care for each other more deeply. There’s something holy about people allowing themselves to be seen for who they are.
When my vulnerability-loving friend and I first sat down together, I wasn’t sure how true I could be. But then, in her compassion and love, she assured me that the space we shared was sacred: no judgment, no isolation. We would bear witness to whatever was shared—be that joy or pain—and we would stand in it together. She did this by sharing her authentic dreams, hopes, fears, and thoughts with me first, and in so doing, offered me the assurance that I could do the same. Before I knew it, I had given voice to some of my own fears and allowed her meet them with love, grace, wisdom, and the ever-powerful “me too”. We offered each other encouragement in the moment and extending from it as well. We continue to check in, offer prayers, and meet one another with the real stuff of our lives, and we are both better for it.
When you remove your mask, you open the door for a friend to be real alongside you. Together, when you prioritize being real in your relationships, you create something beautiful and profound together. Authenticity, vulnerability, and love form a rich soil in which two faithful friends can flourish and grow. And doing this in partnership with God and in the example given to us by Jesus, we bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
Hi there! My name is McKay Hubbell, and I am thrilled to be writing for The Bud Co.! I live in Tampa, Florida, with my hilarious husband, Kenny, and our playful Shiba Inu, Ranger. I graduated in 2015 with a degree in Religion, which was a journey for both my mind and my heart. I’m often found teaching and ministering to middle schoolers or writing over at my blog, theofferingblog.com. I love new friends, so come say hi on Instagram @mckayhubbell!