The past eighteen months have been such an interesting and distressing time for the whole world. They have in many ways brought humanity into a sharp awareness of vulnerability – not only of the human body, but of all that we build, our relationships, social structures, and interconnected economies. These vulnerabilities have also brought about international tensions as our government navigate competing interests.
In reality, all that we put our hand to is as vulnerable as we are. And in this, I have been drawn to the vulnerability in the creation story, as shown in Genesis 1:26-28:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
In the image of God he created them;
Male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
I find it astonishingly vulnerable that God would create us in His own image, particularly when I look at my own children and recognise the vulnerability in having them, in loving them. God has given us agency and dominion to share in His work of caring for and loving creation, the creation that He ultimately loves so much that He gave His all for. It has compelled me to consider – where did this come from?
Fortunately, He tells us: it is in His image we are made. God did not become vulnerable when He created us. Vulnerability was not born in His image at our creation, but it was born in us out of His image. God is three in one. The Father cannot be without the Son and the Spirit; the Son cannot be without the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit cannot be without the Father and the Son. There is profound vulnerability and intimacy in the Godhead, and this is born out in all of creation.
It strikes me that the defining condition of all of creation is its vulnerability, its inter-dependence. We are a creation of profound vulnerability, and yet this is not presented to us as a weakness but as a gift. Perhaps we see it as weakness, because vulnerability and brokenness, when together, can be terrifying. Yet God in His wholeness did not offer vulnerability as weakness, but offered it as strength in love.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
A cord of three stands is not quickly broken. God does not present the vulnerability of love as a weakness but as His strength. He is stronger because He is three, He is stronger because He is love. He is strong in His vulnerability.
And God risked even the vulnerability of a relationship with brokenness when he presented us with the tree of knowledge. Vulnerability alone does not bring the intimacy God offers: this requires choice. He invites us to understand the truth, that even He cannot have intimacy without the freedom to choose. So, He puts His heart on the line, knowing what our freedom will cost Him. In this He not only afforded us the dignity of choice, but the assured hope of genuine intimacy.
From this choice flowed one profound vulnerability after the next:
- caring for a stiff-necked people
- the vulnerability of human infancy
- suffering a life lived with the abuse of hard hearts
- the indignity of suffering an ignominious death on a Roman cross at the hands of His creation
- the rejection by so many of His children.
Yet the crazy thing is, He declared it all worth it, that He might share true intimacy with the ones who respond.
This year, I have been severely unwell and immune-compromised. I am currently watching – in some ways helpless on the sides – as my husband responds to the vulnerability of my body. Like never before, I have witnessed how much he loves me, as he spends hours disinfecting every item that comes into our house, including the many groceries required to feed three teenage boys!
Watching the concern and distress in his body as he does all he can to ensure my health. Yet this is also bearing out the intimacy God gifted us when He created us in His image – the image of love. I have never seen my husband love me so well as he does now. In my need and vulnerability, I have seen his love more fully. And in this, he testifies to the wisdom of God in giving us that tree, to choose the vulnerability of love.
So, if I could offer you any encouragement it would be to not despise the vulnerability of the times in which we live. They hold in them the key to a greater understanding of the intimacy and strength of a love expressed and grown ever more deeply within us.