The other day I heard a crash and found my toddler standing with a tablecloth in hand, broken pieces of ceramic all around. I scooped him up and cleaned up the mess. It had been a beautiful, white, ceramic basket with navy blue filigree painting. I had picked it out when I lived in Portugal as a 16-year-old girl, with all the hopes and dreams of marriage and family before me. I couldn’t wait to use it as a centerpiece on my someday table, to hold buttery rolls or fresh flowers. But now, 14 years later, it was sitting in broken fragments all around. One of my sons offered to try and fix it, but I dismissed it in my sorrow, tossing the pieces in the kitchen garbage. It could never be what it once was. I was right, in a way, but missing the point altogether…
You see, there’s this lesson I’m learning that’s changing my life. And I wonder why I’ve never thought of it before. It’s a lesson about weakness.
Weakness has always been such a negative word in my personal dictionary. Weak chains break. Weak muscles tire. Weak eyes need glasses. Weak notes can’t be heard. Weak bridges crumble…
I have never wanted to be weak. You may even say I’ve had an extreme aversion to weakness in any form. Most of my life has been spent proving to the world that I can do it. That I’m strong enough to handle things. That I won’t bend or break or fall. That I can shine under pressure. That even though I’m small and look fragile, I am strong and capable. That I can do it all and be it all. Do you notice a pattern?
It’s all about I.
But in that space where we do fall and come short of the glory of God, it’s in that exact place where “weakness” becomes not just a thorn in the flesh, but a blessing from on High. Because without weakness, we would never learn to come unto Christ. If we made all the right choices and had it all sorted all of the time, if we never were physically sick or emotionally weary, there would be no need to fall down on our knees and tearfully plead for His divine strength to cover our shortcomings. There would be no need for a Savior.
I’ve had a certain weakness for more years than I can remember. It’s been something I’ve tried to pray away, study out a solution, and try a thousand different ways to “fix” what appears to be broken. And yet, it is there, just like Paul’s proverbial thorn in the flesh. I did not choose this trial, but it’s a part of me and has often left me wondering what I’m doing wrong. Why can’t I just be stronger? Why can’t I overcome this block? Why can’t I simply pull out the thorn and heal? And if I can’t, surely He can–because He’s the Master Healer. But He lets me keep this weakness, because He knows it’s the only way I will learn to rely solely on Him. It’s the only way I will forsake “the arm of the flesh” and lean on His ample arm. It’s a trial, yes. But it’s also an opportunity to walk with God.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:7-10
There is such depth of wisdom in these four short verses, and though I’ve read them and thought I understood them before, I’m beginning to understand even deeper now. I’m beginning to understand why Paul said that he glories in infirmities…because when we are weak, we can receive a fullness of Christ’s strength to make up the difference. Maybe I’ve had it all wrong my whole life. Maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about our own perfection; maybe we should be dipping our cups into the perfection of Christ. Maybe we should be less concerned about eradicating our weaknesses, and instead be grateful for the very things that bring us to Him.
It’s in this moment that I realize that our weakness plus our best efforts coupled with Christ’s grace from His infinite atonement is greater than any strength we could have shown on our own–even if this weakness had never been our burden.
Put in a simple mathematical equation:
Weakness + Effort + Grace > Our own strength without the weakness
It reminds me of the ancient Japanese art called “Kintsugi,” where a broken ceramic dish or cup is taken and mended together with lacquer and gold leaf. The cracks, filled in with gold by master craftsmen, elevate the ceramic piece that was once ordinary, and then broken, to a unique work of art…
Our humanness is ordinary at best and broken in so many ways–through physical limitations, mental infirmities and emotional weakness. But the Master is healing us by filling in our weak cracks with His golden Grace and making us more beautiful than we ever could have been by ourselves.
So, now when I wake up and all the skies are gray with my weakness, I will kneel down upon the floor, plead for His grace and strength, and rise up with gratitude in my heart for the beauty hidden in the ugliness, for the strength hidden in the weakness, for the chance to walk hand in hand with the Master Healer, the Perfect Craftsmen, the Divine Artist.
Truly, all is Grace.