“Hey man how are you?”
“Hanging in there. How’s work?”
“Busy. How’s the wife?”
“Doing well, just started a new job.”
“So great man. Glad to hear everything is well.”
“Yea. You too. See you around…”
We’ve all had that conversation. Or at least a version of it. It’s benign niceties and the bare minimum of detail. It’s normal, even necessary, for so much of what we communicate to exist here. No sane person bears every intimate detail to a stranger, and no one should, but I’d wager 90% of our interactions live at the surface. Even among friends it’s easy to find oneself moderating your own retelling of the day’s events, as if to say something beyond the social norm would immediately flag you as an outsider. And we fear being the outsider. For us, for those around us, we lack vulnerability because it bears the risk of rejection and shame – the inner voice whispering “what if they never see me the same way.”
Within Christian community, attacking this has become a played-out trope as pastors and small group leaders beg their congregations to let others in and trust our relationships to care for us at the depths of who we are. Yes, this often happens, and when it does it is beautiful and life giving, but if vulnerability is only driven by top down obedience there is a level of soul that remains unseen.
It is human to crave being known wholly, but more than that we long for someone to meet us there. To know the weight of our existence not just in words but in experience. This is obviously difficult. No one has felt the details of your life like you. They couldn’t possibly feel the uniqueness of your struggle, heartache, or joy.
But, even in our uniqueness there is a humanness we all share. An existential vacuum at the core of who we are that longs for more. We are aware of how fleeting life is, how difficult too. This longing rises to the surface in several ways, but it is there in us all nonetheless. Understanding this longing, first for us and then for the other, gives us grounds to step into vulnerability in a new way – one where we have a shared experience that binds us all.
It is a holy endeavor then to long together. It’s not looking towards one another for fulfillment or approval, but instead it’s an invitation to long with you. Admitting emptiness is the only way any attempt at vulnerability does not become another false projection. To say I know I need something far grander than myself and you do too keeps us from chasing only the image of intimacy.
And better yet, the more we admit longing and invite others into it, we become more aware of how “other yet close” Jesus is to us. The existential vacuum is exactly that for anything of this world, but He stands at the end of our longing beckoning us home. It’s everything rushing headlong into His lap. How wonderful would it be to feel with each other as we head there together.