“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.”
So here we are.
We knew it was coming.
The tough stretch.
Daniel’s in the last five weeks of tax season.
I’m in the last seven weeks of pregnancy.
My body is increasingly bulky, weighty, and awkward; it tires easily. Every week it takes more time to get less done. I have to be careful of my back, my round ligaments, and my ankle. Tall strong sons lift and carry Katie for me whenever possible.
Last summer’s skinny, energetic, low-maintenance self is but a distant memory now.
A few months ago, a friend of our family asked if he could sit down with Joe and me and talk. He hoped he would not be offensive, he said, but something was concerning him.
He observed me giving and giving and giving and giving. And giving. How was I making sure I was also being fed? How was my walk with the Lord?
As usual when put on the spot in person, my words stumbled around on their way out. I tried to explain how I saw my relationship with my heavenly Father. I’m pathetic at long lists of “things good Christians must do,” like kneeling to pray for an hour each morning according to the acronym A.C.T.S, and putting the spiritual armor on every day.
I’m more like a child with her hand in her Father’s hand. I talk to Him and listen to Him throughout the day. I’m not worried that He’s going to let me wander off, or that He’ll disown me if I don’t get it all right. He keeps His grip on me, gives me what He wants me to have and takes me where He wants me to go. I can trust Him to tell me when I’m sinning and ask Him to forgive me and purify the motives of my heart. I’m not strong. I’m needy. I need protection. I need someone to guide me along. I need a constant diet of straight truth. I need lots of mercy and forgiveness. I’m His child and He has what I need. The burden is on Him; He has told me to put it there.
The conversation stayed in my mind afterward. There was more, something else I wish I had said.
I made careful plans for that trip, you know. Who can blame me? After all, I’m a planner by nature.
Tall black European-style boots would complete winter outfits to help me blend inconspicuously into the background in Tommy’s country. My body language will demonstrate that pregnancy isn’t going to slow me down, in case anyone wonders. An agenda is made up for every spare minute of time there. A list of questions for the director.
God’s plan for that trip? Strip away every human strength.
Suffer a sprained ankle less than two days before traveling.
Trade in the black suede boots for a last-minute Goodwill find–ugly comfortable shoes that can easily accommodate the swelling, the ankle brace, and the on-and-off process through airport security. Find out much too late that in certain light, one shoe is black but the other is a definite navy blue.
Travel in a wheelchair. Dependent, needy, and at times, helpless. But never inconspicuous.
Watch my companions carry the luggage I wanted to handle myself, while I stand uncomfortably idle.
Try to keep up a stiff pace from the moment I arrive in Tommy’s country, learning to use crutches at the same time.
Meet the new director of Tommy’s orphanage as a middle-aged pregnant mom limping along on crutches, wearing unsightly old-lady shoes.
Hear His clear directive, “Let go of your agenda and list of questions. Wait and see what I will do instead.”
Try hard all week not to inconvenience anyone. God forbid that my needs cause anyone else to have to wait for me or help me.
Find something I can do to carry my own weight in some small way. “It makes you feel better to do something to help, doesn’t it?” Her simple observation shone a sudden truthful light onto my actions. Who was I fooling? Was I really loving others with my pitiful and proud efforts? Or feeding my own ego?
Why do I so dislike being needy?
To put it bluntly, I hate being dependent. I can’t stand the inability to just take care of everything myself the way I want to. Weakness isn’t “me.” I’m a doer. I’m not afraid of hard work. If I have an addiction, it’s Getting Things Done.
But here we are once again. We said yes to Him. He is again hemming me in behind and before. So, Susanna, what is true about this situation?
Do I want the power of Christ to be made perfect in me?
Did I really think that was going to happen without discomfort or sacrifice?
If I insist on keeping my life within humanly sensible, manageable, attractive, and explainable bounds, who gets the credit at the end of the story?
Would I rather have it easier if it meant missing out on seeing the surpassing power of God in my life?
Why do I go to such great lengths to avoid being in that weak place when it’s the only way I will get to see His strength flowing through me?
God asks some to be instantaneous martyrs, but not many. Is it not just as much an honor to be counted worthy to give up my life everyday for the rest of my life as it is to give it up in one moment?
Yes, God is pouring my life out as a drink offering. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong; it’s the normal Christian life; He designed it to work this way.
Being poured out dry means that the life that flows through me is unmistakably HIS LIFE, not my own energy. HIS LIFE, bringing forth fruit that will last.
And that’s the “something else” I wish I’d said to our concerned friend.
You can see the demands and exhaustion and discomfort and weakness and limitations. Unimpressive as they are, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Those are the jars of clay that hold the real treasure.
His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness.
P.S. to my friend who traveled hard, cried hard, and laughed hard with me that week. Remember? “These shoes aren’t going to make it in the back door. They’re hideous, they stink, one of them is navy and one is black, and I wore them the whole week in Tommy’s country.”
I kept my word…