For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Corinthians 12:10
This week I was in a prayer meeting with other pastors in our family of churches across the region. We do this digitally once a month, and it's a gift to be a part of a community of women and men that understand the value of praying together. If I'm honest, my attitude can be less than stellar when I notice a meeting like that on my schedule the middle of my work morning. And almost always, I find the Spirit using those moments to restore my heart, and the time is deeply formative.
During our time of stillness and prayer, one of my fellow pastors gave voice to something I could relate to. I can't recite his exact words, but it was along the lines of this:
God, I'm tired. I'm so ready for this thing to be over. Our people are tired too.
And my capacity feels really limited.
But that also feels kind of good, because I believe what you say about weakness, and now I am forced to live in it.
Woof. I mean, Amen...
More and more lately, I'm interested in what makes Christianity truly radical. With the strong influence of Christian nationalism and civil religion right now, Christian faith can start to look identical to American values (independence, strength, power), just using Jesus-ish language to make it sound Christian. But that's not the truth of Jesus at all.
Jesus teaches us that his kingdom flips conventional values upside down. Instead of God blessing the powerful, he gives special favor to the poor. Rather than the religious elite being the ones Jesus favored, he wanted to be among those who openly acknowledged their sinfulness and brokenness. And rather than Jesus just making us strong and capable, he reminds us that when we're weak, we're in one of the best spiritual places to be. So if you feel really weak right now, congratulations!
We can go ahead and be honest that a statement like that kind of stinks. Who likes feeling weak? Seriously? Who? Not me, most of the time.
Until I remember the truth of the gospel. Then I realize that it's easy to state our "belief" in the Lord who says, my grace is sufficient for you. But it's hard to actually lean on God's grace and provision when push comes to shove. It's hard to sit in a place of exhaustion and weakness and say,
Finally! The opportunity has come for me to really be changed, Jesus. To really be used by you! To really learn what your presence is all about. I'm at the end of my rope. Yes.
And yet this part of the truth of eternal life. Faith in Christ is believing that good things, even wonderful things, happen not when we win, but when we're forced to surrender our ego and trust God. That is, of course, if we actually surrender. We'll be tempted to fight our hardest against admitting weakness, and tempted to try to grit our way through it. But when we do that, we miss out on what dependence on God and interdependence on one another does. It does make us strong, but in a new way. It gives strength that is no longer dependent on our circumstances. Strength to rest in the midst of struggle, and to stop hiding our true selves for fear of rejection. Strength to live in real oneness with Jesus because nothing else can sustain us.
I've had so many moments in pastoring, parenting, coaching, and just existing over the past year where I've felt exceedingly limited. And those moments, more than any other moments, have taught me about the beauty of Jesus that can never be taken away from me. It's created in me the capacity for fresh compassion, and the conviction that Jesus is eager to overflow the spaces that our self-sufficiency can't ever fill. And when Jesus fills us, we learn to receive love not by merit, but by grace. Finally, then, we can be disciples once again. Finally, then, we can see the kingdom of God for all the beauty that it is. When we're good and weak.
Jesus, I'm ok with being weak today. Brace my arms, legs, and heart, so that I might keep moving with you.