I'm sure you've heard all this before. How the God who saved us on a cross is the One who uses the things that we earthly-minded humans would never see coming.
I know I didn't want to see this coming.
This past summer God confronted me with my great weaknesses on a road trip toward the setting sun. I was humbled and helpless, feeling dreadfully beaten by my inability to overcome my sin.
Shown just how weak I was, I felt hopeless. But this was right where I needed to be. You see, we are not the heroes of our own lives or even the writers of our own story. Jesus Christ is the proclaimed hero and savior of my life, and yet I was still striving to be my own hero, to stubbornly pretend I was saving myself.
There's this book called "Glorious Weakness" by Alia Joy. Man, did I despise most of that book... It burned my inner soul to the quick. To be confronted with sheer inadequacy that was mingled with joy.. was dumbfounding. I've been fleeing my weakness at a sprint since middle-school. To think of ACKNOWLEDGING all those flaws are shown over the ground behind me, of picking them instead and lifting them to the Lord in a offering of praise and a request for help... I fled from this thought too.
I thought God was to be glorified through my own self-glorification.
But often, the Good Shepherd is glorified most in our humiliation.
He is the Ancient of Days who has been showing His strength through our weaknesses since the shut-up garden gates, since He adopted Abraham and the Israelites, pulling them along towards His promises with love and strength through the pages of the Bible.
Every time they failed, every time we fail, is window of bright light to see God work, to see Him pursue us, to heal us, to woo us.(Not that we should sin more to see Him glorified! Paul makes that very clear:"What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer? Or aren't you aware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We therefore were buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life." - Romans 6: 1-4)I know I've taken to the road of life with my heels sparking fire since I came face to face with my gaping insufficiencies in the weary land of middle-school. Back when I cruelly, socially ranked every person that caught my eye and either steered near or steered clear, when I scorned a friend because I cared too much for stupid, worthless idols like popularity, back when I turned red-faced and stammered in front of class during every presentation, when I watched people move away from me to sit by others again and again until I felt like a piece of dirt, back when I keeled over in the bathroom with an upset stomach because I couldn't stomach the stress of a single school day, when I jumped in mom's mini-van like I was busting out of prison. That time confronted me full force.. I was not strong at all, but infinitely weak. And I hated it. And I hated myself.
Boy, did I want to make tracks from that place of pity.
And I try.
Each time I think I've lost that stalking insecurity, I am tackled, brought to my knees, again, weeping because I am pitiful, because I can't ever save myself. I was tackled freshman year of college, after a sky-high summer where I was walking closely with the Lord and feeling as confident and happy as I ever had. Tackled might not be a strong enough word. I was weeping daily and laying my ashen childhood dreams gently in the dorm trash bin while I recited eulogies. This was a season where I read Alfred Lord Tennyson's super long eulogy poem for his best friend and savored it. I unreasonably and deeply resonated with it. Only no one had died. Just my pride.
And I've been caught up with again, this past week, leveled flat by something very silly, but it turned my week drab and grey, and I was on my face whining for a long time before I thought to confess my helplessness to the Lord and ask for His mighty help.
I want to say it now, before I wince and turn my face to flee again, these crippling insecurities have been my saving-grace.
This past summer helped to realize that weakness can really be glorious, that after walking in a valley for ages, to be brought up on the mountaintop by your Creator, to see His goodness to you on the blackest night of your soul, to see how He still loves you when you are loveless..
by His grace, my trials have drawn me nearer to the Good Shepherd, and they can for you as well.
And God brought me up on top of an actual mountain.
After a week of wrestling and struggling with my hatred of weakness, of wrestling with the 'free-ness' of grace, of stubbornly screaming that I wanted to be self-sufficient, that I really wanted to save myself.. and yet failing at every turn.. the Lord gave me a snowy, quiet bike ride on top of the mountains, and all alone on the tundra, He met me, and I realized my rebellion and wept.
The God who made these mountains, who deals with me so abundantly and graciously... I yearn to know Him more.. to get to see how I'm not sufficient but His grace is sufficient for me.
The middle-school mayhem, the fears, the gnawing anxiety all stand as monuments to God's grace and His transforming work in my life. My weakness attests that I didn't pull myself up with any bootstraps. He carried me. When you are able to look back on your life like this, all is repentance and praise, all is thanksgiving. God becomes the focus instead of you.
Acknowledge Him as the hero, for He is beyond worthy of it. What would happen if we were all storytellers of God's faithfulness? Our stories, ugly parts included, can be powerful testaments to His grace and might. Let's not patch things up pretty or claim the credit. The Messiah is worthy of our words and is wanting us to share the reason for the hope that is within us, to illustrate His glory through our weakness.
The ground where we have fallen and failed, where we lie begging and broken, this can be where we cry out and are fully met by our Rescuer.
Our Rescuer comes lovingly. Jesus is the ultimate Servant King: He who does not deride and laugh, who does not despise and forsake and reject, as we so often have experienced. The many wounds of a fallen world have taught us well to hide our weakness. Friends easily forsake, and foes seek to harm.
But He is not them, but One totally unalike, un-matched, who cloaked Himself in our shame that we might wear His glory. He humbled himself for us, became man for us, washed the disciples feet.. It's all a gift.. we deserve not a bit of it, and that's the part I hate sometimes. I want to have a hand in my salvation, but such a desire is wrong and impossible. We were floating, dead as a door-nail in our sins until He rescued us. All is grace. If you're like me, you need to stop struggling to earn salvation, to save yourself. We cannot prove ourselves worthy. He knows our inmost being. Receive this gift, this free, undeserved gift!
Lord, help us to long for this, this open surrender to the grace that we often hate and flee, and to hold our humiliation up for Your glorification, You who raise the oppressed, who lift them up from the ashes to sit with princes! There is no condemnation in Christ.. So let us even boast in our weaknesses along with Paul, that our lives might tell a beautiful story of Your all-sufficiency.
He is the King of Glory! Throw open the gates that He might come in!
Here's a poem I wrote this summer shortly after my bike ride in the mountains:
Heart inside is gravel,
Rocks and thorny bush,
Pride and fear,
Let no one near and
Stack the wall higher,
To keep wind and light out,
Continue to doubt.
I am white-washed casket,
Stone-cold to grace,
Can you see red tears
On Love's death-worn face?
"My life is mine and mine alone!"
We holler it hoarsely
Curled-crippled on a throne
Of a few earth years,
Of papers and staples,
Of weak, dust joys,
Of dim screens and noise.
In chains to sin's doom
As we spit on Christ's tomb,
Half-hoping against the resurrection,
Half-hoping to die.
It's a cruel farce,
He couldn't love me!
And yet He does,
As we wretches flee
From the rising Sun,
From heaven's great glee.
We can't bear to believe in
Grace this undeserved
Can't stand to be naked,
Lit up in our filth
By Love himself,
Who loved us first,
When we were not dressed up,
Presentable, pleasant but
Starving beggars at His back door,
Legs caked in mud and crap, shaking,
Too ashamed to be seen wanting,
But this is the glory of weakness,
(Of knocking knees and tattered clothes?)
That it brings us even back to the kitchen door
And the Master carries us into the house
Weeping in His delight,
"my child, my long lost
Has come Home!"
"For this one I created
For this one I cried,
For this one I died.
She is mine."
As He puts us in peace's bed, so weak. . .
In our Father's house.
Oh wonderful wanting!
What glorious weakness!