Weakness is the Point
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a day when we hear, “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase reminds us of our mortality, our fragility, and our weakness. For many people weakness is something to avoid at all costs. However, Christians throughout the world gather on Ash Wednesday to smudge their foreheads with ashes because, for Christians, weakness is the point. Let me explain…
During my 2nd semester of my Sophomore year of college I took two English courses. One course was called “Fiction Down Under” and it focused on literature from Australia and New Zealand. The other course was called, “African-American and Multicultural Literature” and it focused on American literature from different cultural perspectives.
Here’s the trouble with taking these two courses at the same time: they were both literature courses-- which means I was required to read an entire novel each week... for each course.
By the second week of the semester I realized that I was in big trouble. There was no way that I would be able to read two novels, every week, while also keeping up with my other courses, my extra-curricular activities, and, most importantly, my blossoming social life.
But then, an amazing thing happened-- a miracle really -- somewhere during the third week of the semester I learned how to speed read.
Okay, that’s a lie, but for some reason I convinced myself that I was able to speed read. I convinced myself that speed reading was just a decision I had to make-- all I needed to do was move my eyes quickly across the page.
And this friends, is what we call a big problem. Because, when you convince yourself that you can speed read, when you actually have no clue how to speed read, all that means is that you end up skimming everything.
That’s all I was really doing with those novels I had to read-- I was skimming through them, and as a result, I was missing extremely important plot points. As you can guess, my grades suffered as a result of my "speed reading".
I think this type of thinking is one of the most difficult aspects of being human. Maybe you haven’t ever convinced yourself that you could speed read, but maybe you have lied to yourself in other ways. We have this tendency as humans to pretend like we have it all figured out, we can handle whatever life throws our way, we don’t need help or a change— we got this.
When say all these things and tell ourselves all of these lies because we are afraid of our weaknesses. We come up with all sorts of clever ways to convince ourselves that everything is fine...
But, one of the most incredible and unique aspects of our Christian beliefs is that we don’t have to have it all figured out. As Christians, we confess that our faith is not about what we do, rather it is about what God does for us.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
In this portion of his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul explains that God doesn't work through our strength and power. Rather, through and in our weaknesses, God is at work.
We don’t have to pretend! We don’t have to be strong! We don’t have to keep it together! Weakness is the point!
At the times of our greatest need we can admit our faults and weaknesses and learn to trust that God’s grace is sufficient. Rather than “gutting it out” or “pulling up our bootstraps” rather than lying to ourselves about what we can actually handle, God reminds us that it’s okay to be weak. Furthermore, when everything seems to be falling apart, that’s when God promises to be strong for us.
May we learn to trust in God’s grace and rest in God’s power always, especially when we feel weak. Amen.