Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weakness

Several years ago I came to the conclusion that I simply do not have the strength to fight anymore. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I’ve ceased contending for faith. There is no more important issue than living a faith filled life. It’s just that, somewhere along the way, I came to the realization that I simply don’t have the strength to fight the world on its own terms and that faith is measured more by a sense of interior weakness than it is by outward shows of strength. For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.[1]

Weakness, in an honest biblical context, is not an indication or sign of spiritual impotence. It is, to the contrary, an indication of spiritual life and vitality. It is indicative of a course of surrendering to not only the reality of a world filled with hatred toward Christ but also to Reality himself. It is recognizing the dangers involved in being led by ego, even the religious ego that is the most dangerous and deceptive form of ego. Weakness looks into the mirror of self and recognizes the false images of pride and vainglory that peer back at us, images that contradict the image of the true self being remade in the likeness of Christ.

We are encouraged to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.[2] Acknowledging God’s ability is to also acknowledge our own inability. Happiness, in a genuine state rather than in false and selfish ideals conjured up in our own minds, is determined by surrendering to a will for our lives that is higher than what we would otherwise choose at the bequest of our false selves. We would choose lives of ease that compliment and satisfy our cravings for material comfort and prosperity, lives that avoid traveling through barren, desolate, and dangerous valleys where life itself depends upon surrendering totally to God’s ability to care for us. We would choose to avoid wilderness experiences where our personal ability to manage and control life is of little value. Yet, it is here, in the place where we have no ability, that the ability of God is most manifest. It is in the desert that springs gush forth from the Rock of Life and manna materializes as Bread to sustain us.

It is difficult in this highly commercial and materialistic age to imagine living a life abandoned totally to God as the caretaker providing all our necessities and directing the courses of our lives. It is even more difficult to begin taking steps that reorient our lives to living in a way that disassembles the flimsy towers that we make of ourselves while allowing the Strong Tower to cast his shade over us. It is here though, in tearing down what we make of ourselves and allowing God to remake and direct the scenes of our lives, where we realize what it means to live in the strength of God. We recognize the limited condition of our own ability and choose instead to depend upon the unlimited ability of God. “To God who is able” can never become the preamble, content, and benediction of our lives until we are able to recognize and admit our own weakness and inability.

This recognition and admission is our initial acceptance of what it means to live a life of poverty. To become poor in spirit[3], the first of the Beatitudes, is not banishment to a realm of baneful impoverishment that imprisons us. It is, to the contrary, a judicial pardon that liberates us to live in a kingdom where a Benevolent Sovereign Potentate, one completely aware and sensitive to the total spectrum of our needs, leads us along pathways traversing a constantly changing terrain that reveals our weakness. In our weakness we learn to trust and depend upon his strength.

[1] 2 Corinthians 12:10
[2] Ephesians 6:10
[3] Matthew 5:3

Photo: Candle lit window, Wind & Water Retreat, Manitoba.