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Vulnerability Interview

September 28, 2012

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The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Brad Hambrick

As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Brad Hambrick as he talks about his booklet, Vulnerability: Blessings in the Beatitudes, which is part of the Association of Biblical Counselors' and P & R Publishing’s new booklet series: The Gospel for Real Life.

BCC: “What motivated you to write a booklet on vulnerability based upon the Sermon on the Mount?”

BH: “It was one of those times when I was questioning myself as a counselor. I had several counselees who lacked vulnerability. When I suggested this was central to their relational or emotional struggles, they either resisted the notion or pushed back, ‘How do you fix that?’ Was this a worthwhile counseling focus? How did you grow in vulnerability? In the moment I couldn’t think of a ‘go to passage’ on vulnerability or methodology to help someone move in that direction. I didn’t like the sense of being ineffective, wrong, or viewed as incompetent. I was feeling ‘vulnerable’ and I didn’t like it. Why was I wanting this for those I was trying to help?

That left me scrambling for the answer to two questions. Is vulnerability biblical? If it is, how do you get there?

Those questions took me somewhere I didn’t expect—the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). I noticed that Jesus started His most famous sermon affirming the very traits I wanted for my counselees. I wanted them to be ‘poor in spirit’ (v. 3) instead of trying to put on a persona of having it all together. They needed to be able to ‘mourn’ (v. 4) the loss of things that were meaningful to them instead of feeling the need to be tough. They were searching for ‘meekness’ (v. 5) instead of vacillating between weakness and false strength.”

BCC: “So, at that point, how did you see Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount impacting your counseling?”

BH: “I realized that I was trying to counsel the rest of the Sermon on the Mount—dealing with anger (Matthew. 5:21-26), lust (Matthew. 5:27-30), honesty (Matthew. 5:33-37), responding to suffering (Matthew. 5:38-48), etc… without beginning where Jesus began.

My counselees didn’t just disagree with Jesus. They feared what He called ‘blessed.’ How could we make any progress? They looked at what Jesus offered and felt repelled more than drawn. I was fumbling for words to describe as beautiful what Jesus laid as the foundation for healthy relationships and emotions.”

BCC: “With that realization in your heart and mind, what did you decide to do?”

BH: “That led to an extended time of reflection and meditation on the beatitudes. I began to read them, not as awkward poetry, but through the eyes of someone who both desperately needed and feared what Jesus said. I found the ability to speak to my counselees as an ‘insider’ with the words of Jesus. I realized vulnerability is not primarily something you ‘do’ but something you ‘are.’ Jesus used nouns in the beatitudes, not verbs. My counselees didn’t need action steps. They (and I) needed to know safety when they felt weak and to know peace when they felt uncertain.

That begins with slowing down—vulnerability is the tortoise, not the hare. So I wrote an article which became this booklet as a reflective devotional through the beatitudes. It is challenging because it asks us to see as beautiful some of Jesus’ most counter-intuitive teaching and apply it to our most profound insecurities.”

BCC: “What is your goal, your heart’s desire, for how this booklet will be used by God?”

BH: “My prayer is that this booklet will be used by God to take the gospel message to the core of many people’s emotional and relational struggles as they embrace Jesus’ words to Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

BCC: “What is unique about the style of writing of this booklet?”

BH: “This booklet is written in a highly devotional style. After an introduction that walks you into the subject of vulnerability (it wouldn’t make sense to jump in abruptly), each beatitude is examined in five ways.

  1. Description: Attempts to define the disposition, role, or activity that Jesus says is ‘blessed.’
  2. Benefit for Vulnerability: Helps you see the connection between that beatitude and a healthy sense or acceptance of vulnerability.
  3. Implementation: Provides possible ways that you could begin the process of growing in this facet of vulnerability.
  4. Personal Reflection: Offers questions to assist you in examining your life in light of the beatitude under examination.
  5. Prayer: Gives a sample guided prayer to help you bring this area of growth before the Lord regularly. Remember, we never grow apart from the grace of God empowering us, and prayer is the initial and primary way we demonstrate our dependence upon and vulnerability towards God. These are sample prayers to be made on your own.”

BCC: “Can you share with our readers a sample of what is in the booklet?”

BH: “The following samplers are sections two and three from the ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst’ section.”

Benefit for Vulnerability: Vulnerability requires silencing the fear of being found out. Creating more elaborate disguises does not work. Even the greatest secret agents begin to doubt their disguises when they are in a den of thieves. Acknowledging our hunger (deficiency, weakness, or insecurity) allows us to live in the real world; as opposed to the fabricated world where we have to portray that we have it all together.

This is not the voyeuristic telling of all of our problems to everyone. Rather it is placing all of our inadequacies, hurts, and sins in the hands of God to allow them to be used at His discretion for the advancement of His kingdom by encouraging, instructing, or identifying with His other hurting people. This hunger (acknowledging dependence) is a hunger for righteousness because it longs for God to redeem every aspect of our life (even the unappealing) for His glory.

Implementation: Reflect on the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). What are the one-talent equivalents of your life; those things you want to bury and hide for fear of God’s or other people’s scorn? Make a list of events, physical attributes, abilities, or embarrassments. Before doing anything else, bring those to God in prayer and make them ‘available’ for whenever or however He might use them for His glory.

Then pray that God would reveal to you an opportunity to use an item on your list to encourage, instruct, or identify with someone else. Study for a biblical perspective on each item on your list so that when the moment comes, your attitude, words, and actions will reflect God’s heart. Pray that when the moment comes God will give you both the courage to speak and the heart to rejoice for the opportunity. Pray that God will eventually give you the ability to rejoice and give thanks for those aspects of your life you currently do not want to acknowledge (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).”

BCC: “In one paragraph, capture the essence of your Vulnerability booklet for our readers.”

BH: “The booklet allows you to patiently examine eight qualities that Jesus called ‘blessed’ that are parts of vulnerability. With each beatitude you learn not only what to do, but how to do it and you learn to see yourself accurately and talk to God honestly about what you’re learning. In the end, that vulnerability is not one, large, monolithic thing, but a collection of qualities (like the fruit of the Spirit) in which you will have strengths and weaknesses which can be overcome by God’s grace.”

BCC: “Please introduce our readers to the titles and authors for the first six booklets released in this series.”

BH: “In the first six booklets, we address the following subjects:

BCC: “Thank you, Brad, for introducing our readers to Vulnerability.”

BCC Staff Note: For a BCC interview with Brad providing a longer introduction to The Gospel for Real Life booklet series, click here. For a BCC interview with Bob Kellemen on his booklet in this series, read Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure

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