When I left the gym, a sweet guy – a BIG and MUSCULAR guy – held the door open. (Boy do I appreciate that!! Any Christian guys who are interested in me, take note – holding the door for the ladies is sweet!) Anyways, this gentleman said kindly, “I hope I’m not being rude, but I wanted to say you’re such an inspiration to me,” and he swallowed hard before the next sentence came out with significantly more difficulty – “My wife is having brain surgery.” I could hear the heartache in his voice, the pain in his eyes as they watered. He locked eyes on me, as if both wanting to look away and wanting to keep looking deeper at the same time. I pressed my lips together and said “mmmmm,” just noting the depth of the emotions he was experiencing, sharing with him in that very human and touching moment, not shying away from his gaze.
I suppose I was gazing just as intently at him as I absorbed some of his grief mixed with hope. I prayed silently. Lord, as he looks at me and sees both a picture of weakness and strength, may he see in my eyes the Hope YOU ALONE give me. This isn’t a moment for words, but let this gentleman see YOU, not me. May YOU be the inspiration. He nodded quietly before the tears overtook him and I returned his nod, continuing to watch a little as he walked towards his vehicle, a man who had the world riding on his shoulders yet who also seemed to have a hope for life and living. His stride and countenance which simultaneously contained opposing emotions seemed to match the cohabitation of weakness and joy characteristic of my own human experience. I spoke up and asked his wife’s name and told him I’d pray for her.
Though I would not have planned it this way, my life is a reminder to others of both their fears, their own weaknesses, and of God’s sustaining grace. Some people want to look away when they see me, the fears overtaking them as they try to avoid envisioning what their lives would be like if they walked a mile in my shoes. Humans, as a race, are naturally averse to weakness.
Others want to stare and really try to understand, or at least they are curious, wondering how I go on each day, sometimes wondering “what happened to [me]?”. Many people who meet me in public, I think, find themselves riding this fencepost; they’re curious and they want to know a bit more, yet they have to face that reminder of their own mortality and weakness if they wish to satisfy their curiosity. It can be an uncomfortable situation.
2 Timothy 1:16-18a (Paul speaking)
16The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; 17but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me— 18the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day…
Yet for those like the man I met today, I believe my life is a reminder that yes, there’s weakness, pain, and death that’s going to affect us all in this life. And there’s also hope, joy, courage, and peace. Most importantly, the later is found in Christ Jesus.
2It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
3Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
4The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor, once said “My limp is my sermon,” meaning the weaknesses she had as a result of SURVIVING the abortion that should have otherwise ended her life now allows her to show and proclaim the goodness of her loving Father all the more to those with whom she interacts.
Well, my weakness is my strength too, for it drives me to Christ in desperation and need, and reminds me of who I really am – a weak and wounded sinner who needs a personal Savior. So look – look upon my weakness, that you may see God’s strength in greater measure working itself through my life. Even when it hurts to look, look. Because it’s about HIM, it’s not about me. I want you to see HIS sufficiency, and if it first means you must see the greatness of my insufficiency, then so be it and Amen.
2 Corinthians 12:5b-6, 9-10 (Paul also speaking here)
5b …on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses….9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
My weakness connects me with humanity. It makes me less afraid to look upon the suffering of others carried in their eyes and to share their heartache with empathy. I don’t mind “getting dirty” with other peoples’ griefs because I’ve walked through enough of my own, and more than that, I know there is a peace to be found in Him for every grief I’ve known.
If I knew there was no balm in Gilead, then I would not have the courage to bear and share in the griefs of others so earnestly; I too would turn away from such pain, wishing to run from the awkwardness of my inability to find a soothing rest and peace (perhaps within myself, where there is naturally only turmoil without Christ) from my own mortality and suffering yet finding none without God. Ah, this would be an uncomfortable place of mind and spirit to be for certain!
My Savior is my reason for singing, and He is my Song.
2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.