A post from a fellow blogger caught my attention of few weeks ago: So Much for Romance.
It was a quick read about a news reporter who covered a singles mixer. While there, a man wore a tag proclaiming himself an “Incurable Romantic” while some snarky women said it sounded like a venereal disease.
My response ranged from sorrowful to cynical. First, I’d have bought Mr. Incurable Romantic a drink, but then I wondered at the motivation behind such a proclamation. Was it for attention, to seduce a woman considered to be a romantic as well, or perhaps it was a genuine, and humorous, attempt at honesty and vulnerability?
A romantic myself, I want to think this guy was being honest and funny, and I want to think the women were being cynical because of past experiences. I want to think dishonesty, cynicism, and hiding are not the standard in relationship, but so often such things shroud relationship even before a relationship has begun.
We are relational beings, created by a relational God, we treat relationships like things we enjoy having around, but do not want to work to maintain. Relational God, creates relational beings who avoid authentic relationship… Does that seem absurd to anyone else?
Part of loving your neighbor means you are committed to dismantling normative, lazy, selfish modes of relationship. Jesus is not who I think of when I think about vulnerability. He was not very candid in relaying His feelings (something we can partially attribute to separation by time and culture). However, if you think about Jesus’ life, everything occurred in a state of vulnerability. He was constantly risking comfort for the sake of something greater.
“Do you want me to tell you something subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” – Erica Jong
I read Jong’s quote in a book about intimacy a year or two ago. At first I thought Jong was unhinged, but she’s not unhinged at all. The risk Jong is talking about is vulnerability.
Our relationships, platonic or not, flourish in vulnerability and shrivel in self-preservation. It is much easier to be self-preserving to avoid being hurt and it is far safer to be cynical especially if we have been hurt before. In thinking we are sparing ourselves from some terrible thing, we really we risk the kind of relationship we desire.
Some of our struggle is cultural; it requires less energy, and less risk, to “Like” a Facebook post or a photo on Instagram. However, even this cultural struggle is but a symptom of an evolutional fact surging through our genetic makeup. We are not innately selfless and willing to open ourselves to “danger.”
When we refuse to venture into the uncomfortable and dangerous territories of relationship we compromise relationship’s design. When we spend our relationships hiding our true selves, the good bits and the ugly ones, our effectiveness in the life of another dulls.
Proverbs 27:17 has become a favorite of mine for this very reason, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
Vulnerability is an act of humility, servant hood and selflessness, but it is ultimately an act of love. Vulnerability is how God grows us and it is one of the ways God has gifted us to be gifts to each other.