How Vulnerable is Your Life?


Young parents quickly discover a level of vulnerability they had not known before a child came into their world. With the birth of a child, under most normal circumstances, your heart becomes extremely vulnerable. You discover that you’ve never loved anything so much and the fragility of their lives becomes, sometimes, all too obvious. I’m not certain that this sense of fragility stops even after their grown and no longer fit the description of “child” any longer.

The vulnerability, of course, is that of love. We live in a dangerous world. I can recall standing at a bus stop every morning of my youngest daughter’s early school years because the idea of letting a beautiful young child stand next to a busy street seemed insane to me. Some mornings it was awfully cold. But we’d play games and wait for the bus and I would watch my heart pull away in that large yellow vehicle. Happy again, that we had warded off so many dangers.

That this same daughter, as a teen, today drives an old Volvo, doubtless has much to do with her father’s vulnerability. It’s my heart.

Most of the things that are truly precious to us have a characteristic vulnerability: a child, an aging parent, a spouse, etc. It is also properly true of the Church. Though its existence is underwritten by the promise of heaven, its dependence on love makes it daily vulnerable to all of man’s worst instincts. On any given day we either love each other and take up our cross, or the Church, that marvelous Bride of God, is wounded and hurt. Something fails and hearts are wounded, and disappointed. God has not made us immune to the Cross but has required it of us in our journey into the Kingdom.

But neither you nor I need drive the nails that bind one another to the Cross. We need not speak ill words or offer harsh judgments or crush dimly burning wicks. Today, be St. John the Theologian who stood by the Cross (as did the Mother of God). Offer words of encouragement to brothers and sisters. Offer no word of offence or gloat at another’s suffering.

There is a line from an old Hank Williams song, that always makes me weep (I’m from the South, you know). It reads:

He was Mary’s own darlin’, he was God’s chosen Son
Once He was fair and once He was young
Mary, she rocked Him, her darlin’ to sleep
But they left Him to die like a tramp on the street.

That same darlin’ dwells in each brother and sister you meet today. Let your heart be vulnerable to them. Don’t leave them like a tramp on the street.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



5 responses to “How Vulnerable is Your Life?”

  1. Dean Arnold Avatar
    Dean Arnold

    A good word, Father.

    Amazing things happen to the heart when a child enters your life.

  2. frgregoryj Avatar

    God in His mercy never granted my wife and I children and so some of what you say I know more in theory than in my flesh. But especially your words on the Church, are great comfort and they offer me a renewed understanding of what it is that Christ has entrusted to our care. I can’t help thinking that if we, I, were more like St John then failure and disagreement in the Church would not have to be so contentious. How anxious we are to punish each other for our shortcomings.

    Let me second Dean’s comment you have spoken a good word, Father.

  3. Mary Lowell Avatar

    Father, Bless,

    And for those of us (you) who are grandparents, the vulnerability becomes so great that it can (should) transform us into great cultivators of prayer. When it is often said about some given situation of seeming helplessness, “Well, all you can do is pray,” as if that is a position of least action, REJOICE! – the vulnerability has shifted from your own fretful heart to the hearts of those little ones, so darlin’ and dear, to become vulnerable to God. No greater, effectual and eternal work can you do than pray that their hearts be imbued with the love of Christ and His Holy Church.

    Thank you, Father, for your recent council to me about my family. It is working, though the evidence is only perceptible with regard to my own changes; I cannot and may never know what fruit will come from bearing this cross of tears for my children and my children’s children. But we have the promise that God hears us.

    Mary Lowell, a most vulnerable grandmother

  4. Erik Avatar

    Something about this post called to mind Flannery O’Connor’s response to a friend who was struggling with the faults of the church and the faithful. She explained, “The operation of the church is entirely set up for the sake of the sinner, which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.” And she illustrates this understanding in the concluding few paragraphs of her story, “Revelation,” in Mrs. Turpin’s vision of the saved on their journey to heaven: “At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away . . . In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”
    In that moment the smug Mrs. Turpin became somewhat more vulnerable.

  5. Margaret Avatar

    Of course I am in total agreement with this post and with the comments. May God continue to be with us all as we show the love to others that He shows to us! It calls to my mind a “saying” that I have read as attributed to the Danes:
    He who takes the child by the hand, takes the mother by the heart.

    And I would insert takes the father, the grandparent, the guardian of the child…

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