Vulnerable Faith – a book review
– Andy Wade –
“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”
This line toward the beginning of Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of Jesus jumped out at me when I first read it, and as I continued reading it became clear that this was central to the journey Jamie was about to lead me on.
To be honest, when I realized the Twelve Steps were integrated into the book, I was a bit less excited about reading it. Not that I disagree with the Twelve Steps, but I was looking for something different. Well, different is what I got. Masterfully weaving together the story of St. Patrick, personal stories from his own life and community, and the Twelve Steps, Jamie unleashes tools to really begin exploring our own issues, issues at the core of our being that hold us back from flourishing in the life God created us to live… together.
Fear is often one of the main motivators of our lives. Deep within us is this drive to survive at all cost. But this fear is not just about death, it’s about all those things that make us feel vulnerable: fear of embarrassment, fear of people discovering our deepest, darkest secrets, fear of failing, fear of losing a relationship, fear of the chaos that transformation requires, and on and on the list goes. I’ve heard lots of people talk about how they don’t care what others think, but this is often just another mechanism of shielding us from our own fear that actually leads us further from the peace and joy God created us to live into. The call of Jesus, the cross, is counter-intuitive. As Jamie puts it:
“We will not always be able to trust our instincts, because they rely, not on faith, but on self-preservation. While those same impulses often serve us well and can most often be trusted, in the process of redemption they can run counter to path we are called to. Therefore, we rely on God (and the support of one another) to give us the strength to do the impossibly foolish act of dying to self.” (pp. 70-71)
Perhaps this is why there’s so much emphasis today on “bold faith”, on strength, on triumphalism, anything that moves us further from the uncomfortable call to die to self. Yet dying to self is the heart of Jesus’ call. We cannot live fully for God when we refuse to let go of our fear and walk in the way of Jesus, the way of vulnerable faith.
And perhaps this is why I ended up really appreciating how Jamie incorporated the Twelve Steps into the journey of St. Patrick. You don’t jump from step one to step twelve, it’s a process, a sequential process. There are certain aspects of our lives we must confront and honestly deal with before we can move forward. Our fear, our desire for self-preservation, compels us to skip over the steps that are less comfortable. In Vulnerable Faith Jamie exposes, through the life of St. Patrick, why that doesn’t work and just how essential the holistic and healing process of discipleship really is.
This is not just a personal journey. Vulnerable faith does require us to reach deep within ourselves and discover those places that need exposure to the light, to healing and hope. But vulnerable faith would just be another self-centered path if it ended there. Instead, like St. Patrick, it ventures down a new path that requires us to be vulnerable with one another for the purposes of healing and reconciliation. Vulnerable faith is a call to community precisely because it does not leave us alone but compels us to walk together, carrying one another’s burdens, confessing our brokenness and entering into honest relationships of mutual care and accountability.
This book is rich with insights and, if read reflectively and with honesty, those insights are not just about God, but also about ourselves and our community. We are invited to enter into St. Patrick’s story, his journey out of self-sufficiency and into vulnerable faithfulness. And it’s not a one-off journey but one we travel over and over during the course of our lives, traveling deeper into God, into our own soul, and into community. Vulnerable Faith is an invitation to join this pilgrimage of the soul and to live more fully, more freely, more joyfully, into the purposes of God for each of us and the world around us.
He is the author of “The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom” (InterVarsity Press), in which he invites readers into a life of obedience to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, exploring the text through the life of St. Francis of Assisi and Little Flowers Community, a Franciscan-Anabaptist faith community in Winnipeg’s downtown West End where Jamie pastors.
Jamie is also co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg and director of Chiara House, a new intentional Christian community who share life “on the margins”.