“When I grow up, I want to be nothing. Someday, I want to be successfully weak,” said no starry-eyed child, ever. However, this is exactly what I am saying now.
I have always despised weakness, especially in myself. People could say all kinds of things about me, but if they inferred that I was weak, it became my life’s mission to prove them wrong. To me, there was not a worse comment to be made or judgment to be cast upon me.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was near the beginning of our contract, and we had a team exercise where we faced the hard facts with each other. We shared the opinions of each other that we would have rather kept hidden. We had to listen with open hearts to the things we didn’t want to hear anymore than the people speaking wanted to say them. My nightmare had become reality and the consensus had been spoken: people saw me as weak. In the moment I handled the news well. However, over the past year and a half it has been a struggle to figure out how to deal with it. “They don’t really know me. I’ll show them,” has been my attitude. However, God has been teaching me lately that I have been wrong. So wrong.
It must have been a month ago. I arrived at the church already broken down, even though it was only morning. I silently wondered how I would make it the rest of the day. Tears started to flow down my cheeks and I desperately tried to hide them. I was so frustrated. Frustrated with fighting this chronic pain. It had been 12 years. I was tired of waiting for God’s promise of healing. The past few weeks had been some of the hardest I had faced. It was like God had turned the fire on super hot. One can only hide something to a certain extent, and that day I was struggling to walk. I would have to answer questions. I would have to grimace a smile, but I didn’t even have the strength to do that.
I prayed in my frustration, “God, why won’t You heal me? I’m here and I’m seeking Your face. I have been open to whatever You would have to teach me. Just heal me, already!” The answer came clearly and immediately: “Not yet. I have greater things for you. My work in you is not yet complete.” As peace washed over me, God did not take away the frustration. For some reason, I would have to see this battle through. Little did I know that God was propelling me into the greatest lesson that He has taught me yet.
Weakness=unlovable. Weakness=despised. Weakness=rejected. Weakness=useless. Says the world.
However, God says: Weakness=full capacity. Weakness=accepted. Weakness=power. Weakness=useful.
It doesn’t take long in reading the Gospels to see that Jesus often preached opposite values from what society taught. He taught people to turn the other cheek, to be a servant in order to be great, and to be like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He taught that the first will be last and that many who are last will be first. Could there be anything more preposterous? The scandal of God’s grace sent the Prince of Heaven as a helpless baby in a manger, born to scared teenagers. The angels chose a field of dirty shepherds to be the first ones invited to the party. Jesus could have chosen some of Israel’s brightest stars to train for world transformation. Instead, He chose uneducated and despised fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots. Riff raff. The world would never expect this. Where were His political advisors? Apparently God saw something in the weak and helpless that He could use more than those who were powerful and capable. Why did Jesus need to die? What greater weakness could God Almighty have shown than to allow His Son to die? As crazy as it may seem, I know one thing to be true: without death, there would be no resurrection.
God isn’t looking for the prepared; He is seeking laid-down lovers. God isn’t holding out for the educated and talented; He is particularly drawn to those whom society would brush aside. He says, “Come, lay down your lives!” The call is not for the faint of heart…or is it? The call is not for the weak…or is it? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”
Who wants to be considered foolish or powerless or despised? Anyone who truly wants to be used by God. In order for Jesus to do His Father’s will, He chose into that. He became a fool. He became weak and He was despised. He allowed Himself to be a little helpless baby. He grew up, raised by clueless kids. He allowed His creation to torture and kill Him. He spent three days in the grave.
I am learning something very important from Jesus and the ones He included in His story: our emptiness gives more space for God to fill us with Himself. Our weakness gives more room for God to fill us with His power. The bigger my empty container, the more He can fill. The deeper my dry well, the more space there is for His water of life. Come, Holy Spirit.
The world will tell us to try harder. God calls us to go lower still. The world will tell us to reach for the stars. God calls us to seek to be nothing. John the Baptist’s words ring in my ears every single day, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less (John 3:30).”
Paul discovered the secret when he said, “…when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10b).” How did he come to this conclusion? Because God just finished telling him the most preposterous thing any human could ever hear, “My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9b).”
Lord, if You can only use me in my weakness, then, God, help me to drink the cup of suffering. If You can be glorified best in my nothingness, then help me to go lower still every day of my life. Although I am terrified by that prayer, I desire Your will. I lay down my life. Use me. Fill me.
It must have been a week ago. I sat in a room with my friend Brandon and we asked God to speak. Brandon turned on the music, and the presence of God came so powerfully that we were both in tears. I prayed about that day when all my team saw in me was weakness. What God showed me was that He chooses to be powerful in the weak. What was sown in weakness will be raised in power. So with trembling hands lifted high, I offer my life.