Recently at Network a scene played out that is not exactly uncommon for our community.
Lenny claimed to have his bike and his phone stolen. Lenny lets his anger fly marching around in a colorful rage proclaiming, “I’m gonna kill whoever did this!”
Lenny happens to be one of my favorites. I consider him a friend. So, I follow him out the door to see if there’s any possibility of consolation.
“Lenny, come on. You’re not gonna kill anybody. You’re a good man. Simmer down so we can try to work this out.”
Lenny’s big, black, weathered hands firmly grip my shoulders as he looks me in the eye and says, “Ryan, I’m not a ‘good man.’ If you only knew…”
He proceeded to rattle off a list of crimes and crap I’d rather not have heard.
In response, my white not so big hands, attempted a firm grip of his shoulders and I say, “I still believe you're a good man, a child of God, deeply loved. I for one, love you.”
Lenny leaned on the porch rails and started to sob then proceeded to do some more confession.
This, of course, set off my emotions. I began to weep and even confess some of my own stuff to Lenny.
Several minutes later we hugged it out and said our goodbye’s. I look around to notice we’ve already locked our doors. That day's Network shift closed an hour ago.
Lenny and I had entered into one of those dimensions outside of normal time.
The suffering, the unleashed emotion, shared poverty, an exchange of humanity had transformed the ordinary ground beneath our feet into something sacred.
We became so disinterested in pretending or protecting ourselves. Our image maintenance projects temporarily shut down. This created an opening which allowed for mutual vulnerability and a divine way of seeing reality.
(As hard is it is to believe neither one of us achieved this through the help of drugs or alcohol. I promise.)
Wouldn't all that also describe what transpires when we pray?
We set our persona, our protective mechanisms, our surface-self aside. We stop convincing ourselves that we're so important.
We create the space to truly open ourselves up to the Presence.
And I'm not sure this happens or can be sustained without sharing some degree of mutual suffering.
Through prayer God somehow shares God's own suffering and powerlessness with us.
I wonder if one of the most significant theological blunders that has damned the church throughout history and hindered divine intimacy is this strange commitment to believing God as almighty, unequivocally powerful.
Isn't it shared suffering and naked vulnerability that allows for human intimacy to flourish?
Is it then so hard to imagine the ground of divine friendship to be any different?
How do we reconcile God and the reality of suffering?
We just can't.
But I do think we have all the permission in the world to ditch our perception of an almighty God and instead see God as the one weeping, the one abandoned, the one humbled dwelling right here beside us. The epitome of perfect vulnerability.
For Lenny and I, the ground beneath our feet transformed through giving ourselves over to the suffering of the moment. At least for that instance our ego's were laid to rest for the sake of connection. Vulnerability won.
Will the world heal in any other way?
God is perfect vulnerability.