Larua Rorem (Courtesy Photo)

Larua Rorem (Courtesy Photo)

Living & Growing: Finding strength in vulnerability

Vulnerability is at the heart of being human.

  • By Laura Rorem
  • Thursday, March 9, 2023 2:58pm
  • Neighbors

“There is no substance abuse here! Tanya has schizoaffective disorder. It is not her fault or yours. Here is the number to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. You are going to need them.”

Three days earlier, Larry and I had rushed our 15-year-old daughter kicking and screaming to Mercywood Psychiatric Hospital in Ann Arbor. The words and our naivety about mental illness left us stunned. In complete denial and ignorance, we thought she would be stabilized, and life would return to normal in three weeks.

It was 1987. Stigma and ignorance about mental illness often terminated a pastor’s call when mental illness struck their families. Up until this point, we lived a fairly stable idealistic life and could easily hide our vulnerabilities. This left us feeling helplessly devastated and in a state of vulnerability we could not hide.

The world expects us to work for strength and embrace power. Consequently, we had convinced ourselves that hiding our vulnerabilities was synonymous to strength.

We wondered how this would affect Larry’s ministry. For nine years, the people of Prince of Peace had grown to love our spirited child! They were going to notice she was missing and questions would abound. We knew we must tell them, but how? Our greatest fear was exposing our vulnerability! We reached out to a couple of trusted parishioners who took our two youngest, so we could retreat and pray.

Suddenly, a wonderful transformation took place and we began to understand that to love is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is at the heart of being human.

Jesus’ vulnerability began at his birth to his crucifixion. As the Son of God, he emptied himself of all power and acknowledged his vulnerability as human in order to redeem humanity on the cross. Jesus offers an image of vulnerability blended with strength which offers love, compassion, and mercy. God calls us to remember our vulnerability and how we can serve the poor, weak, marginalized and all humankind.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God tells Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” Strength is found in admitting we are weak. We find our strength in our vulnerability.

Three weeks had passed when we were jolted into the reality that Tanya’s illness was lifelong and required long-term care. In a state of utter despair, and realizing we could no longer contain our pain, we exposed our vulnerable selves in the safety of the congregation’s women’s group, who embraced us with love. To our astonishment, our willingness to be vulnerable made it safe for some to share their struggles with mental illness in their families, for the first time!

From that time forward, we discovered sharing our vulnerability was not a weakness, but strength. By sharing our vulnerability with others, we allowed others to find strength in their own vulnerability.

Vulnerability is where change begins to happen when we admit we are struggling in life. When we identify with the vulnerable and offer ourselves to the world as vulnerable and humble servants, it allows us to change our focus on how we relate to each other, our community and our world.

Knowing our strength comes from God, may we have the courage to share our vulnerability.

• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. She writes to honor her husband, Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable; and in memory of Tanya’s legacy, who gave us the gift of vulnerability. ”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

More in Neighbors

"A kid’s hardest task is to learn how to translate their parents’ words into intelligible language. Baffled kids often ask, 'What is my mother saying?'" writes Peggy McKee Barnhill. (Unsplash / Vadim Bogulov)
Gimme a Smile: What is my mother saying?

Kids, let me enlighten you.

Jane Hale (Courtesy Photo)
Coming Out: At the pool

This column is a kind of conscientious objection…

"After nearly two decades in such a unique place, Alaska’s definitely rubbed off on me," writes Geoff Kirsch. "These streak marks, so to speak, appear most noticeable whenever I visit the Lower 48, land of Dairy Queens, zoning laws and people who’ve never scraped eagle poop from their windshields. To wit, nothing makes me appreciate living in Alaska more than leaving for a few weeks." Unsplash / Greg Rosenke
Slack Tide: Alaska vs. the Lower 48

On one hand, flavorful tomatoes. On the other hand, the PFD.

Recognitions for the week of March 19

Juneau students earn academic honors

This photo shows AWARE’s 2023 Women of Distinction (left to right) Kate Wolfe, Jennifer Brown, LaRae Jones and Susan Bell. (Courtesy Photo)
Thank you letter for the week of March 19, 2023

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

During winter 2022-23, contractors replace the awning structure on the 1904-1913 Valentine Building. The historic building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Its location at the corner of Front and Seward streets is also within Juneau’s Downtown Historic District. (Laurie Craig / For the DBA)
Rooted in Community: The historic Valentine Building and the Findley Family

Many shops have occupied the Seward Street storefronts while Juneau Drug anchors the corner space.

Joab Cano (Courtesy Photo)
Living & Growing: Trust in God

Do you trust in God?

"Bald pride abounds," writes Geoff Kirsch. "In fact, a Bald Men Club of Japan holds an annual Bald Man Competition. In this Olympic-style international tournament, two men stick suction cups to their heads, attached to a single red rope, and then attempt to pull off their opponent’s cup, tug-of-war style. Better start training for next year; I wonder what the rules say about Spider Tack…" (Unsplash /  Chalo Garcia)
Slack Tide: The good, the bald and the ugly

A look at merely a few benefits of being bald…

Jane Hale (Courtesy Photo)
Coming Out: A brief desultory digression

Wisdom in Willie and Waylon and veritable virtue in Virgil.

Most Read