We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen. Brené Brown.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 9)
People in the ancient world revered Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) as divine. In his twenties, Alexander ruled Greece and conquered the rest of the world. In Paul’s day, the culture divinized the emperor Augustus, who ended Roman civil war and brought peace to the whole known world. Other leaders copied the formula: military might and organizational genius make for god-like leadership.
Historical context makes sense of the poem in Philippians 2. It’s a summary of Paul’s gospel message about Jesus of Nazareth whose death and resurrection prove that he is the world’s only true Lord. For Paul, Christ is the true reality, and Alexander and Augustus are imposters. Jesus taught this truth: Worldly rulers lord it over others, but you must be different. With the children of God, the great ones are also the servants, and whoever is highly gifted must be the slave of all; because the Son of Man came to serve and give his life to free many. (Mark 10:42-45)
Most people in Paul’s world were shocked at the idea that God’s power works through our vulnerability rather than our certainties. People in our world find this difficult as well. In every age, religious people are trapped in false (and dangerous) pictures of God and power.
Understandably, this picture of vulnerability is quite a challenge: God is best understood in the person of Christ Jesus who clearly demonstrated a new pattern of thought and action—put down your armor and function out of humility. Really? The message is so threatening to false power that religious people will detach themselves from the real meaning of Philippians 2 and make it about correct beliefs getting them onto the winning team.
Part of the rising strong process is the task of reclaiming childlike vulnerability (also a Jesus teaching). There is a passage in Daring Greatly that summarizes this well:
As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection—to be the person whom we long to be—we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen. Brené Brown.
This is what we are learning to do as we rumble with difficult emotions in the rising strong process. The Rumble is where we learn how to engage with our difficult emotions rather than using them against ourselves and others.
LORD God, help me to understand true humility and rejoice in the power of vulnerability.