Lately my students have been preparing for a debate on hot topics from a biblical perspective. Their topics range from is football beneficial for kids to should transgender individuals be allowed to participate in sports/military etc with those of the “new” gender. The issues aren’t always easy to understand, but I think it’s essential that my believing students learn to grapple with the issues of the day and to strive to see it from God’s perspective as much as possible. As you can imagine, we’ve had a lot of discussion on the transgender topic and the concept of gender identity. I challenged them to not allow culture to define what is male and female because my personal opinion is that culture is trying to remove the distinction. We are told that women are as strong as men and that we can do everything they can do. To some extent, I agree. God created us equal; however, there is a subtle message underlying this and this message is that weakness and vulnerability are bad and undesirable. I don’t really intend to camp out on this concept except to highlight our absolute aversion to being considered weak–so much so that it saturates our media and probably drives us more than we realize.
I remember once reading an article for a Cultural Anthropology class where a tribal group of people stated how weird they thought it was that westerners try to hide their faults with makeup, surgery, and hair dye, etc. The thought never occurred to them to try and hide faults and blemishes. They just assumed that was part of being human. I remember being completely floored by that idea. It never occurred to me to NOT try to hide my weaknesses and faults. I didn’t really think there was another option. It made me stop and ask myself what I was really trying to accomplish. Is it really my goal to make people believe that I am perfect?
As believers, we know with our mind that this idea is ridiculous, but, yet, we still subscribe to this ideology. Don’t we see this played out in our churches? Don’t we respect and admire those who look attractive? Whose children are well behaved? Who exhibit skills of leadership?
And, of course, this isn’t a new idea. When Paul served the early churches (especially the Corinthian church) many did not find him “cool” enough. Paul didn’t look right; he didn’t have the right presence; he didn’t have the great references (for more info–read 1 and 2 Corinthians and read about his shaky relationship with them). He even had something wrong with him; his thorn in the flesh he calls it. We don’t know exactly what this thorn was (many speculate something to do with his eyes), yet we know he pleaded with God to remove it. And God’s answer was no. God’s reasoning was astounding.
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Talk about turning our ideas of strength and weakness on their head. Weakness is not something to be afraid of or to even avoid. It is when we are at our weakest (and we admit it) that we see the perfect strength of God. When we are desperate, helpless, useless, grounded, fearful, and pitiful, God has the best opportunity to work. When Paul realized this, he turned his whole message around. Instead of begging God to remove his weakness, he decided to rejoice in it. To boast in it even. Why? Because when God shows up and transforms us, then He gets the credit and not us.
That’s the true power of God on display there. That’s our witness to the world–not that we have it all together (we don’t), not that we are so smart (we aren’t), not that we are strong (no again), but our message is that HE is awesome and He can take whatever junk we bring to Him and do his amazing transforming work! Hallelujah!
So, that brings us to the point. What weakness are you desperately trying to hide? What fear lurks in your mind that threatens to expose you? What if….what if you stopped being afraid and instead saw every weakness as an opportunity for God to do miraculous, transforming work? What if you rejoiced in it?
And, one last big what if–what if you let others be weak and vulnerable? What if you didn’t judge them or wish they’d get their act together? What if you believed God could do something amazing in the lives of those who make you nuts? What if?