Advent: Yes to Being Vulnerable

“I’ll keep you safe.” Tyler’s tattoo consoled me; I was pretty much chair-bound while recuperating after foot surgery. I felt vulnerable. I was not able to care for myself as I was accustomed to do on my own before surgery.

During the next 12 hours of service, Tyler, nursing assistant, demonstrated the meaning of his tattoo. He placed items where I could reach them easily. I felt secure as he escorted me on short walks. When I wanted to know the “why” of an action, he explained, respecting my ability to understand. Throughout our hours together, I felt we collaborated in movements among dependence and independence and interdependence. I noted and appreciated how Tyler did what he did. I felt safe as his tattoo promised—safe physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. As I look back, I see that the safety Tyler and others provided on my journey of healing contributed to my recovery and overall well-being.

The dependence and the service of caregivers—what and how it was given—during my four-week recuperation helped nudge me over the threshold into Advent. God became human, and hence, became dependent and vulnerable (Phil. 2:6–9). As I reflect on and live in this reality, I am reminded that I am to live with the attitude of Christ who humbled himself even to death. My sense of vulnerability these past weeks has refreshed my awareness of this call. As much as I squirm to get out of the discomfort and fear of my vulnerability, I also know possibilities of movement to deeper trust and dependence on God and other people, to courage, patience, gratitude, deep joy, hope…

Advent can serve as a renewal of the call we have been given to live with these attitudes of Christ, especially as we recognize and say “yes” to our vulnerability. We are not in full control of our lives. Insecurity is our daily companion, although we do not always recognize it and our defenses often hold it at bay. Will I be accepted? Will I do well enough? I failed; now what? The forecast of a blizzard threatens my trip scheduled for tomorrow. I fear the outcome of my husband’s heart tests. I thought I could count on my friend; now he needs help himself. National and international events endanger me, my loved ones, our world.

Advent can also remind us of our responsibility and opportunities to assist others to live through their experiences of vulnerability. We need support so we can move into the attitudes of Christ, into a deeper loving relationship with God, people around us, and nature.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)—and continues to do so during this season of Advent as we claim and welcome our own vulnerability and our call to support each other on our journey together. Christ is coming. Christ lives among us.

Mary Reuter, OSB

Photo: The Advent wreath at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, taken by Sister Laura Suhr