But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is brought to its end in weakness.” Therefore I will gladly boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
-2 Corinthians 12:8-9
So the post-Easter week feels like a spiritual hangover this year. Normally there’s a lot of celebration. But this week, for many of us…. it’s another week of isolation in a season of unknown length.
Some things are just too big to deal with.
Our trash service has a policy that if something is too big to fit into the bin with the lid fully closed, you can’t put it in. That’s often a problem for me, because I usually have big things to take care of. About 4 weeks ago we had this broken fluorescent light fixture that’s about 5 feet long that needed to be trashed from a basement project. I discovered it was too big to fit in the bin. So I just put it on the ground in our carport indefinitely, not sure how to move forward.
It’s frustrating to realize that something is too big for us, isn’t it?
We Americans (in our minds) are self-made people. We are exceedingly capable, able to do anything. Until we can’t. And we don’t have a framework for that.
Some of us have approached this whole pandemic thing like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. It’s our job to make things right. Sure, the government has work to do, but for the 1,000 people I know personally, if I do my job, everyone will be fine. Sure, it’s big, but I am capable and can take care of this. I’ll lead them toward Jesus. I’ll say the right words. I’ll give money and time and other stuff (don’t know yet) to make everybody feel good- whatever it takes.
I WILL MAKE THINGS OK.
Of course, this is a complete falsehood, but for those of us who hold this view deep down, we aren’t always fans of well-reasoned logic about our limitations.
So we try. We try to do it all at once, and we try to fix the world.
And then we can’t.
And we have no idea what to do with that.
And when it’s overwhelming, we just leave it, and we get paralyzed and jaded and frustrated and exhausted. Then we do nothing.
Then there are others of us who go internal right away. The world needing fixing is inside me. There is so much turmoil within us that our big task is to become self-aware enough to fix our emotional state. Read the right books, use the right centering technique, and post enough positive memes and we will self-actualize ourselves into being perfectly fine through all this!
So we try. We try to fix ourselves…ourselves.
And then we can’t.
And we have no idea what to do with that. So we despair.
But this isn’t how trauma works. It has to run its course, and we have to allow for the weakness that it brings with it.
This is also how grace works. We have to be at a point of acknowledging our end in order to trust God’s fresh beginnings. We have to bring our weakness before God, knowing we can do a few things, and we can’t do most things.
Sure, we do the little things we can, within us and around us. But they won’t fully fix the problem, so we let grace meet us in our admitted weakness. That is SO uncomfortable.
When Paul tries to get Jesus to fix a problem of his, Jesus' response is that he will be enough for Paul, because the more Paul bumps up against his limits, the more God’s grace can meet and transform him. That’s good news, but it’s hard to hear it that way.
So last week I walked by this light fixture in my carport for the 100th time, and I decided maybe there was another way. I got out my metal cutting reciprocating saw and asked my boys to help me out. It was not ideal and not completely safe and there were sparks and flying metal (we all made a pact not to tell Bethany), but we got it into a few pieces that could fit into the trash bin one at a time. Slowly, they’re going to get hauled away. It felt good to make a little progress.
See how capable I am!!!
But then I looked behind my shed and I have a bunch more pieces that I forgot about, that aren’t going to fit either. And I don’t have the energy or the tools to break them down right now. So they’re just going to stay there for the foreseeable future. And I’m going to have to be ok with things not getting done like I want. I’m going to have to be ok with not being able to resolve everything right now. I’m going to have to experience some grace. Ugh.
I know as a pastor I’m supposed to be delighted by grace. But I’d rather be delighted by my impressive capability.
One of my old college professors has a picture of a fortune cookie for his facebook profile. It reads:
"It’s going to be ok, just not in the way you think."
That might be the good news of Jesus for us today. It’s ok that things are not ok. But things are going to be ok, that promise is certain. You don’t have to do it all right now. Do what you can, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for you, and that when we admit our own insufficiency, we open space for God’s beauty to be seen even more.
We are a resurrected Easter people. But we still walk in a world where death lingers.
So today might be a day to simply sit in the ridiculous grace of God, letting it fill you enough to stop your savior complex, or fill you enough to slow your self-actualization requirements. Jesus is risen, and you are allowed to rest in that.
Jesus, make your grace sufficient for me today.