Be Weak

Showing the strain

(Photo Credit: Brian Smithson on Flickr; used with permission under a Creative Commons license)

Today, I give you permission to be weak.

Too many of us put on this façade of being tough, having it all together. We cover up our weaknesses and try to compensate with our strengths. We find something from which we can derive self-worth, haunted by the side of us that tells us we’re worthless.

If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we’re all just a few steps away from disarray.

The world doesn’t offer much hope when we feel weak. Phrases like, “Suck it up,” or, “Man up,” may hype us up for a moment but leave us starving for real hope.

We internalize by beating ourselves up. We experience shame and turn in on ourselves with self-hate.

We externalize by pursuing addictions or by expressing our sadness in anger, or even violence, at others. We try to take from others what we don’t have ourselves and turn our self-hate on them because they couldn’t give us what we needed.

What terrible, dark, paralyzing weakness.

True Strength

In the New Testament, we read that the apostle Paul pleaded with God to remove a “thorn” from Paul’s life. The thorn, a symbol for something (the Bible doesn’t clearly tell us), is something that causes Paul to feel weak. Paul is powerless to remove this thorn from his life.

Do you ever feel like that? Powerless to do something? Powerless to change? Powerless to deal with something in your life?

So Paul does the only thing he can think of. It’s the only other option: Ask God to take it away.

God’s response, at first glance, may seem contrary to his nature. It’s not what he normally says, or at least what we might expect him to say. It’s not along the lines of Jesus’ healings where he says, “Your faith has made you well,” or, “I am willing.”

God says, “No.”

Paul records God’s response this way: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The apostle goes on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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 12:9b-10).

True strength is falling into God’s arms. Ending the acting. Stopping the faking. Giving up. Letting go.

The Most Profound Thing

There’s a story (whose accuracy I can’t validate) about Karl Barth, an influential theologian of the 20th century. Barth is asked a question: “What is the most profound statement of Christian theology?”

Barth responds with the simple lyrics of a childhood hymn:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so

So may you be raptured by a love that comes to us amid our weakness, may you trust in a love that whispers to us amid temptation, may you be enveloped with a love so great it conquers death. May you have the courage to be weak and be lifted by he who is strong.

Grace-Centered Resolutions

new-years-resolutions

Supposedly, the largest spike in new gym memberships occurs at the beginning of the year. The assumption is that most of those people who get these new memberships will hype themselves into working out for a few weeks, and then fade off and not use them again for many months, if ever. I have no evidence to back up these assumptions, but regardless, this is what New Year’s Resolutions often look like for us.

I think most of our resolutions come from something we don’t like about ourselves.

We trick ourselves into thinking, “If I change this behavior, I will like myself more” or “I will get the love I need from others if I acted/looked a certain way.”

Fear-Centered Resolutions

A lot of our resolutions are fear-centered. Fear-centered resolutions look like this:

1. Fear. If I don’t change _____________, I will never be happy/find wholeness.

2. Hype. If I change _____________, I will be able to find happiness. We hype ourselves into the behavior change, letting the hope wholeness dangle in front of us like a carrot.

3. Burnout. After a certain period time, when we are not getting the results we want, we lose that energy to keep going.

There have been times in my life where I made behavioral changes based on a dislike of myself. In a specific season of my life, I invested a lot of time and energy into diet and exercise. I didn’t like how I looked and I thought that if I bulked up a bit and shaved off a few pounds I’d get the positive attention I wanted. And while pursuing good health is a positive thing, my motivation was in the wrong place. That motivation faded and I found myself right back where I started.

I think God has something better for us.

Grace-Centered Resolutions

What if we switched the source and motivation of our resolutions and behavior changes? What if, rather than trying to power up and push through, we went to the true Source of power? When we do that, we find that Jesus has already come to us and has been with us all this time.

1. Love. I am loved by God, right now, as I am. God is my wholeness. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

2. Receive. I don’t need to hype myself into a state of change. I can rest in who I am, right now, as God’s child. (Romans 8:15)

3. Overflow. My identity is secure because of God’s love for me. I let God’s love overflow to my work, my habits, and my relationships. (Luke 6:45)

This is quite a course correction, and it’s not easy. I battle fear on a daily basis, struggling to receive God’s love for me, while being tempted to hype myself up on adrenaline for ministry and relationships. But Jesus didn’t say that he would come to give the weary a shot of adrenaline; he said he would give us rest (Matthew 11:28). It’s in this rest, this not-doing, that we receive his love for us.

[I owe a lot of this line of thinking to a friend and colleague of mine, Chris McAlister. He’s got a pretty cool ministry going on called SightShift which is all about finding a secure identity in God’s love, not in the things we do or the relationships we have. You should check it out.]

Stop. Look. Listen.

128983854_8963f7d9fc_b

(Photo Credit: Esther Simpson on Flickr; used with permission under a Creative Commons license)

The Lord then gave these instructions to Moses: “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. (Exodus 31:12-13, NLT)

God gave us the Sabbath to help us center our identity in him.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our work. To validate who we are by what we do. And if we find ourselves working during our day of rest, we may be guilty of turning our work into an idol.

But God gives us permission to stop. To be unproductive. To be unbusy. It is he who sanctifies us and makes us holy.

It may be scary to stop because it requires us to come face to face with who we are. No more distractions. Just you and God.

In the Sabbath, God invites us to STOP.

We don’t need to perform or to prove ourselves to anyone. We simply slow down allow God to speak into our lives.

In the Sabbath, God invites us to LOOK.

We can miss so much of life when we’re rushing from one thing to the next. Where do you see God working in your life? In the world around you? Where do you see God in creation? In the sunrises and the sunsets? In the people you see day in and day out?

In the Sabbath, God invites us to LISTEN.

Our lives are filled with so much noise we may miss out on hearing God’s still small voice. What is God saying to you? What words of affirmation and love and acceptance is he whispering in your ear?