I’ve been experiencing some weakness in my right shoulder lately. I think it has something to do with a water buoy throwing lesson I had with Michael at the lake while we exercised Dakota. I’ve tried to rest it, but I haven’t asked for any kind of special treatment at work because I don’t want to be perceived as, you know, weak.
Then I read Vicky’s post. Vicky and I have been friends for four years. She lives in Minnesota and has had breast cancer the entire time we’ve known each other. Her transparent account of how this round of chemo is affecting her has haunted me for days.
Vicky can’t hide her weakness. In fact, when I talked about how each day is unique and how I feel challenged to experience all God has for me in today, she commented that she wondered how she could participate in God’s will for her life when she can’t clean, cook, or cheer on her boys as they play hockey.
Although I can't relate to her circumstance, I can relate to her question. When I can’t hide or deny my weakness, it makes me doubt my value--to my family, to my job, to God.
As I carried a heavy heart for Vicky all week, I came across a story in the Bible. The apostle Paul was sharing with some believers about an affliction that was tormenting him. He had asked God to remove it, but God didn’t. Instead, He told him, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you; it’s all you need. My power is made perfect in weakness.”
That is so upside-down to me.
In general, I see myself as strong and I’m proud of what I’m able to accomplish each day. I think to myself, Sure, my shoulder may be bugging me, but I can work around it. Nobody has to know about that. But what if it’s true that weakness is truly strength like orange is the new black? How do I go about identifying with my weaknesses, seeing them as assets, when all my life I’ve viewed them as liabilities?
Paul went on to share that he had experienced more of Christ’s power while dealing with his affliction than he had while he was strong. He went so far as to say he was at peace with his weakness--because that’s precisely when Christ’s power was fully evident.
My new friend Aimee once put it this way when trying to explain this concept to her daughter: When you think of something you want to do and actually do it, that's God allowing you to be strong. And maybe that happens about 10 percent of the time. But the other 90 percent of the time? When you feel like you can't do anything--at all--and it's scary? And you feel weak about it but it happens anyway? That's God.
So why do I avoid being perceived as weak? I want to experience Christ’s power, His strength! I think I’ve believed the lie that others will think less of me if they see me at less than my best. But that's when it hit me--I’ve never viewed Vicky as weak! Despite her physical limitations, she has displayed faith, courage, and strength so consistently that even if she didn’t say, I’d know it was coming from God. I love her for that and admire her so--she's like a modern day Paul and I want to be like her.
Weakness is unavoidable. At almost 49, my shoulder is telling me that, loud and clear. But how I choose to define it and Who I look to for strength in the big question that--depending on the answer--can redefine how I view myself and how others see Who my strength comes from.
Whose life has impacted yours by how they're living it? Encourage them by telling them so today.