Fear motivates me to all kinds of dysfunctional behaviors. When I feel unsafe, I switch into self-preservation mode. It is a natural instinct to protect oneself from harm or destruction. I even see it in my 4 month old granddaughter. When she perceives she is under attack, her eyes flutter, she pulls her head away from the “danger,” her arms come up to shield her from any incoming trouble and, in some cases, she cries. It is natural to protect oneself.
As I mature, I develope more sophisticated methods of self-preservation. Most of the time, the danger is not physical. Something comes that threatens my security socially, emotionally or professionally. These dangers are often unseen and difficult to identify, but they are there nonetheless. I build walls, develop weapons, hone strategies designed to preserve self. Vulnerability and authenticity do not have a place in my arsenal.
Jesus shows us a better way. Although he was completely God, he made himself vulnerable by coming in human form, with all its limitations. Philippians 2:5-8 say it best:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8
I assure you, nothing that I cling to is anywhere close to what Jesus gave up when he came to earth. His willingness to let go of his position so that I might be restored to BEING rather than DOING is beyond my ability to comprehend. But he did it. While this way may seem like social and professional suicide, the benefits far outweighed the loss he experienced. Keep reading in Paul’s letter:
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
That seems like quite a promotion to me. So many times my actions are motivated by fear of loss. Loss of notoriety, approval, acceptance or advancement that I self-preserve by practicing dishonesty, lack of integrity, hiding, defending, demonizing, building arsenals, grudges, revenge. This way of doing prevents me from really loving myself or others well. In the end, I lose it all.
Jesus said this:
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?Matthew 16:25-26
The question I ask myself is this: can I trust God with my life for its impact and effect? Can I leave the preservation of who I am to him, giving myself freely to whatever he brings my way? Jesus is the best example of someone who had every right to protect who he was and use his position and power to impress and overwhelm. But because of his deep love for humanity, he laid it all down in exchange for a humiliating death. As a result, he received the highest reward anyone will ever receive.
It’s so natural to protect ourselves, and in some instances, it is the right thing to do. I want to learn to live in an undefended state so that I might be free to love well and experience the very best of what God has for me.
How about you? Are you living in a continual state of self-preservation? Does receiving the best by living vulnerably seem like an oxymoron to you? I invite you to give it a try. You are not on your own and it isn’t a journey you have to figure out. Just tell Father that is what you want and he will show you the way.
And, oh yeah, don’t listen to the voice that tells you it won’t work. He never could tell the truth!