I just returned from my annual retreat at The Abbey of Gesthemani in Trappist, KY where I slept until I was rested, and took long walks along serene woodland paths where I listened to the silent voice of God. Each evening after the dinner hour, I made my way into the balcony of the church to join the monks as they praised God and chanted the Psalms before bed. When the service concluded, I would sit for awhile alone in the balcony as the evening sun filtered through stained glass windows and the sweet scent of incense hung in the air, enveloped in silence and the tender love of the Almighty. Then, with my soul awash in peace, I would retire to my room and write until late in the night.
Monday morning I had a final cup of tea by my window facing the monks’ gardens and I was ready to go home. God called me away to rest and refreshment and I was full.
It did not take long for the Evil One to kick me in the gut afterwards with well placed discouragement and not too long after that for me to find myself struggling with my own weaknesses.
So, I have been thinking about weaknesses. For so long I have despised my weaknesses. I hated the fact that once I became the mother of five I could not remember everything or keep up with all of my responsibilities no matter how many fail-safe measures I put into place.
“I used to be so together.” I have bemoaned.
And spiritually…it seems the more I try to live a holy life, the more I see my sin. I say “I’m sorry” more to God, my kids, my husband and everyone else.
Now, my body seems to be failing as well. I once was so, so, strong and I was proud of my strength but today, I am not yet 40 and arthritis is eating away at my spine. I still exercise to maintain the resources that remain but…things have changed.
Oh, weakness. How I have despised you.
It never ceases to amaze methough, how God understands me so much better than I do myself. Over and again, I am astounded as he chooses the perfect venue to refine me and renew me. I guess, it almost goes without saying that the means he chooses…well, I would have never chosen them for myself.
He whittled away so much junk from my spirit during our adoption wait. The Refiner’s fire was hot and I longed to flee it, begged to be released but the Potter would not let me go. He taught me about trust. He showed me His true character as that of a loving Father. He tore down a whole lot of arrogance and pride.
So, my view of “weakness” is changing. I think I am finally beginning to get what Paul was saying in 2 Cor. 12:9&10.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I am beginning to understand the difference between my strength and Christ’s strength in me. My strength leads to arrogance and a judgemental spirit. I become so “puffed up” that I become like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-10, sitting in condemnation of everyone else.
On the contrary, when I face my weaknesses honestly, I am forced to say with the tax collector in the same passage, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Then, and only then, do I find justification. Then, and only then, can I be used of God.
That is reason alone to glory in weaknesses, but when I think of the devastation an arrogant, critical spirit inflicts on those who are misfortune enough to cross my path, I am all the more glad for my weaknesses.
Arrogance, self righteousness, is such a lie anyway.
After all, if I am honest what do I have that I have not received?
“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” 1 Corinthians 4:7