Monday, September 7, 2015

Strength Redefined

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.


  1. I'm so touched, Jenn, words escape me because my heart is in my throat! I have to say, "weak," isn't the word that I would call to mind when you say you've injured your shoulder. I don't view you in that way, either, even though I believe the pain you are experiencing is hard to go through, and alters your daily life. Our group therapist is always trying to convey to us that we are not our "illness, or side effects, or limitations, etc." They are simply a part of us, but not all of us.

    I still haven't made complete sense of just what Paul was conveying at a deeper level... am not sure what the "thorn" is (?) but the part that I completely understand is how I, like Paul, have to leave it with Him. He is my strength- through and through- amen to that! Thanks for deepening my thoughts and helping me with my own journey through! Your writing is thought-provoking and resonates deeply. I am so glad you are using your gifts and sharing with all of us! Much love to you!!

  2. Jenn,
    Thank you for moving my mind and heart and putting to words what I often feel...about we often disguise our vulnerability and about how Vicky is so like Paul. As she tells the truth about her battle with cancer, and doesn't sugar-coat it to make herself seem without fear, I see her as stronger, more humble and more grace-filled. And she constantly points to Him as the source of that strength.

    I too "carried a heavy heart for Vicky" all week. I am praying that God will remove this cancer from her life. Yet when in this post you gave the example of Paul praying for removal of an affliction, and God didn't remove heart stopped a bit. Yet I truly trust that the Lord has a plan for Vicky and He is with her, beside her, holding her in all of this.

    Thank you for sharing how Vicky's story is causing you to look at your own life. Her love and friendship is such a gift to me as well.

    1. Linda, thanks for your thoughts about this post. i told Vicky the other day that i appreciate how she has been open to new friendships in the course of this journey when she could've "circled the wagons" and walked this with those she knew well. we are so blessed by her courage and transparency. i hope we won't have to wait too long to hear the results of today's time with Dr. P, although i'm kind of holding my breath about what the MRI will say. this i know: God will not be surprised by whatever is announced, and He will give Vicky, Rick, Nolan, and Colton exactly what they need in that moment.

      hope you visit often!

  3. Jenn, you are truly an inspiration! Thank you for opening my mind and heart this evening. I was just going through some old emails from my Dad, when i remembered to tune in to blue table musings. I'm so grateful for the Lord today and feel blessed that our paths have crossed.