This past week I shared on the fifth statement of Jesus on the cross — I’m thirsty — so I’d like to summarize my points here and place them in the context of our life together.
This expression of primal human need is a poignant and intimate picture of Jesus. It comes in the final moments of his life and at a time when, pinned to the cross, he was physically incapacitated and unable to help himself. If any liquid was to make it to his mouth, it would happen only because someone responded to the need he voiced.
In the story of his life we find other other very human moments as well:
• he becomes intensely hungry after fasting
• he’s exhausted from a long, multi-hour trek from Judea to Sychar and sits by a well
• he asks a Samaritan woman for some water
• he falls into a deep sleep on a boat caught in a squall
• he cries at the tomb of Lazarus
• he asks his disciples for company, to pray with him and be near him in the garden
• he experiences emotional desolation before his crucifixion
The list could be longer, but this is enough to form a picture of a very human Jesus, one who experiences the limitations and weaknesses of humans. As the author of Hebrews puts it, we have a High Priest (Jesus) who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do.”
The sole point I wanted to draw from this was that the presence of need and the expression of weakness are part of the garment, so to speak, of Jesus. It’s as important to see the humanity of Jesus as it is to see his divinity. It’s also important for us to acknowledge our own need and weakness — unless, of course, we think we’re better than the one we follow.
The earliest record of the church (taken from Acts) is of needy church. But we also read about the church responding to those needs. Needs become known and needs get met as members of the church respond. We’re told in Scripture to “love one another” and be “devoted to one another,” but our love and devotion are compromised and watered down when human frailty is kept under wraps. Privatizing weakness won’t do.
I’ve realized recently in some very explicit ways that my own desire to hide need, pain and weakness are rooted mostly in pride. I want to look good, want to look like I’ve got my act together . . . after all these years. I fear that if others see the very messed up parts of my life then I’ll lose my glitter. After all, I’m supposed to be a leader. But maintaining the illusion of respectability or togetherness is a damnable and unnecessary burden. This past weekend I shared with you my own experience of taking a risk, of going to others and talking about an area in which I feel especially weak. And I told you how I wasn’t met with disdain and revulsion — “Away from me you wretch!” — but with love, acceptance and . . . drum roll, please . . . substantial help. Isn’t that’s the way it should work?
If we’re going to grow toward community, then we have to grow toward transparency. Sharing our needs and revealing our weaknesses should become a routine and very matter-of-fact occurrence among us. It will keep religiosity at bay, create the soil in which concrete love can be expressed, and allow the power of God to be revealed more sharply among us.
Finally, here are some questions to consider:
(1) What real needs do you have that you’ve been unwilling to share with others? What are the weaknesses that you don’t want others to know about? Name them. Write them down.
(2) If you came up with something, ask yourself, “Why have I been unwilling to let others know about x, y or z?” Name the reasons. Write them down. (E.g., I’m afraid of what people will think, I feel driven to project an image of success, I don’t believe others are trustworthy, I don’t know who to turn to, etc.)
(3) What are a few practical things we could do to foster a greater degree of transparency.
Peace to you,