In my recent reading I came across a new word for my spiritual vocabulary – “Flourishing.” Andy Crouch in his new book, “Strong and weak” refers to flourishing as being fully alive, “…..not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to exist, but to explore and expand.” The men who read this blog desire to break out of the conventional, cultural male mindset, into a spiritual space where they are fully alive and fully human. To be fully alive to the glory of God is to flourish. But how do we learn to flourish?
Crouch suggests that flourishing comes from being both strong and weak. To help us grasp to the nature of this paradox, he introduces a 2×2 chart formed by two axes – authority and vulnerability. The vertical axis is authority, which Crouch defines as the capacity for meaningful action. It’s the difference we make in our particular sphere of influence. The horizontal axis is vulnerability, our exposure to meaningful risk. “The vulnerability that leads to flourishing,” Crouch says, “requires risk, which is the possibility of loss – the chance that when we act, we will lose something we value.” The balance of authority and vulnerability lead to flourishing. that is, an “abundant life” (John 10:10), the “life that really is life” (It Tim 6:19).
Crouch can be helpful in our journey as “wild men.” “We are meant to experience more and more of the full authority intended for human beings, which can never be separated from vulnerability – the ultimate meaningful risk – of entrusting ourselves to one another and to our Creator.” Greater authority and greater vulnerability will take us on two challenging journeys. The first is the journey of “hidden vulnerability,” the willingness to bear burdens and expose ourselves to risks that no one else can fully see or understand. The second is sacrifice, “descending to the dead,” the choice to visit the broken corners of the world and our own heart.
Jesus, of course,was able to hold this elusive paradox in tandem – full authority and full vulnerability – for the sake of those he loved. Jesus’ authority was evident to everyone, while his vulnerability was more difficult to grasp. It is Jesus who helps us to flourish. “We will not restore the world to its intended flourishing by impressive feats of self-improvement. Instead the restoration of the world flows from the singular human being, Jesus….It is only Jesus, and the Spirit he has sent to empower his people for their redemptive mission in creation, who truly sets us free from the mire of poverty, apathy and tyranny.”
I have spent quite a bit of time with Crouch’s book in this blog for a reason. It is a great help with the “tough” and “tender” paradox that I often refer to in these blogs. Men, if we are to flourish, that is, have an abundant life, the paradox of authority (tough) and vulnerability (tender) will be operative in our lives. Simply think of your role as husband and father (your domain). We can make a difference by embracing servanthood authority, or choose to descend into passivity or the need to control. We can learn to balance authority, by a hidden vulnerability that will expose us to risk and even failure. Men are challenged with the question, especially in relationship, “do I have what it takes.”
Remember Jesus came to liberate us from the dilemma of this paradox. “That is what the Son of Man has done. He came to serve, not to be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage” (Mark 10:45 – Message).