I came out of speaking at this weekend’s retreat with this thought: Resisting vulnerability correlates with resisting grace. We need to risk being vulnerable in order to receive grace.
In the retreat talks I had each student do a tactile/kinesthetic exercise that was to help them:
1. self- examine
2. self-express
3. take a vulnerable step
4. allow grace to touch them deeply
I truly believe how much more deeper is this approach then just giving a message with some follow up discussion questions. After each session, the students gathered in small groups to talk, but they didn’t need discussion questions. They just shared their experience of the session to one another.

explaining the exercises
the latex glove- Jesus calling us out of our hiding places
As we looked at the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, we imagined his life and how he may have coped with it by hiding and pretending. Others who met Jesus, like the leper, the demoniac, the paralytic and the woman in bed with a fever- all who are recorded in Mark prior to the 3rd chapter, could not hide and pretend. Their shame was right out in front of all. But the man with the withered hand could hide his hand and pretend.
We talked about Jesus calling us out of hiding and bring our shame into the light in order to receive grace. Each student was given a glove and wrote on it their shame name. Some wrote “loser” “rejected” “broken” “ugly” “weak” “coward”. Then they took off the glove and turned it inside out. They wrote on the other side of the glove ways they hide their shame, like being funny, helpful, obedient, tough.
At the end of the session they each came up front, one by one, and took off their glove. They shared their shame name and ways they hide. With a wet cloth, I or another leader, washed each student’s hand and spoke the word of reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed for the cleansing of their shame. Then I took a marker and wrote a word of grace that I thought fitting to replace the shame name. I wrote words such as “victor” instead of “loser”, “glory” instead of “ugly”, “accepted” instead of “rejected”.
It was a powerful first night by providing a bridge to be vulnerable and to receive grace.

writing strengths on a balloon- The deconstructing of Peter
The second session was the next morning and I talked about how Jesus broke Peter’s props that he uses to avoid dealing with his own frail ego. Peter looked mighty strong and bold, spiritually, socially and even physically, but he relied on his own strength in following Jesus. And Jesus took the air out of that balloon along the way of their time together. It came to the point even where Jesus predicted that all Peter’s bravery and power would fall apart as Peter would deny Jesus three times.
The students took balloon and blew them up. They wrote their strengths and giftedness as they have perceived them to be. Then I had all the students raise their balloons (not tying a knot in it). I picked one student to release his balloon as the rest kept theirs. I asked him how it felt losing his balloon of strengths while everyone else still had theirs. Then everyone released their balloons and wrote reflections on what that would be like if they lost their “props” that keep them going while bearing their shame burden.
Again a deep time of interaction afterwards.

Making cracked clay bowls- Mary M and beauty out of brokenness
Saturday night we looked at the life of Mary Magdalene and how her life before Jesus was one of destitution. We then moved into seeing what a transformation into beauty came because of her encounters with Jesus. I used many stories and illustration of the power of God’s grace to make beauty out of brokenness.
The students took clumps of clay and made bowls. Then they drew shame cracks, ways shame has broken them. At the end they were given small strands of gold clay to fill in those cracks. They went off alone to do this and to talk with God about helping them see the beauty He is doing in them. Then they came together in groups and shared.
Most powerful of the sessions.

Clothspins on my ear- Leftover shame and Paul’s thorn in the flesh
I tried to answer the question “If Christ has come and washed us, why is their leftover shame?” Using several illustrations I proposed 4 reasons:
1. Unfinished work of grace needed to deal with deep hidden brokenness
2. compassion
3. humility
4. power beyond self
To start the session I had each one take a clothespin and write the temptation and struggle that had ever persisted in their life. I then put mine on my ear and asked them to put it on their body somewhere as well. After the message they broke up into triads and gave someone their clothespin. They made a covenant with one another to pray for each other and to support each other this half year in dealing with their “thorn in the flesh”.
This ended the weekend and finished strong.

I am convinced that more tactile/experiencial learning needs to be incorporated in the message giving in our church gatherings.

I am even more convinced that vulnerability is needed in order to receive grace.

Resist Vulnerability=Resist Grace