I’m not a great golfer. I can make my way around the course, but I don’t get asked to be on anyone’s team when they’re trying to win a prize. My long game is short and my short game is suspect. I’m usually a little unpredictable. I can follow up a rare par with a triple bogey. Some people would call my golf game bad. I don’t like those people.
Last week I went golfing with some friends. On a 180 yard par 3 I pulled out my driver. For you non-golfers a driver is what you use when you want to hit the ball far. “Far” in golf is 300 yards. Most good golfers hit a driver 250 yards. Great golfers hit it 310 yards. Apparently, I hit my driver 170 yards. I was accused of hitting the ball (and this is a direct quote) “like an 80 year-old man”. Those words were spoken by a friend…through great laughter. When it comes to hitting golf balls I’m weak. No one is impressed by weakness-not on the golf course and not in life. Yet, in the Christian life, weakness is the way.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12: 9– 10).
I like to view life as a slow and steady process of getting stronger. Physically you turn the corner from helpless baby, to crawling toddler, to skipping preschooler, to growing grade schooler, to awkward adolescent. The older you get the stronger you get. Stronger physically. Stronger emotionally. Stronger intellectually. I like to think that is true. In some sense it is, but eventually you turn the corner. We all do. We slowly are becoming weaklings.
Weakness flies in the face of the “victorious Christian life”we’re often told to live. We celebrate the strong and shun the weak. We love stories of triumph. We naturally want to follow the strong and we quickly grow weary of the weak. Yet, Christianity is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It’s not a story about a weak man who grew in strength. It’s a story about a strong man who became weak. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…” Christianity is a story about the rich becoming poor. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). It should come as no surprise then that God’s story is filled with followers who are passionately poor and desperate. It’s filled with men and women who are weaklings but, in Christ, find strength. In the Christian life, as J.I. Packer writes, “Weakness is the way.”
We are free to be weak because Christ was and is strong for us. Tullian Tchividjian in his book Jesus + Nothing = Everything writes:
Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.
We don’t need more strong Christians. In fact, just the opposite is true. We need more weak Christians. In our weakness we show our need. We demonstrate our frailty. We display our own desperation. It’s in our need, frailty, and desperation that we shine a light on his strengths. When we are weak we show His grace is sufficient, not our strength. It’s counter-intuitive, but in the Christian life weakness is the way.
If weakness is the way I’d like to admit to some of my weaknesses. Paul was probably talking about physical weakness, but I think it could include spiritual weakness as well. So, here it goes. I’m emotionally weak. Just ask Melissa! I quickly go from settled and secure to feeling like like I’m on an emotional bobsled-twisting and turning down an icy track. I also have trouble trusting God with my finances. The unexpected is unwelcome. I get frustrated with my children when they interrupt my “cone of silence” at home. I like peace and quiet. They like being kids.
I’d like to say I’m slowly but surely getting stronger in these areas. Sometimes I show growth and take a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t take much to cause me to take two steps back. I’m weak.
Thankfully, my weakness is slowly developing in me desperation that leads to dependance. It’s not a desperation to turn inward and try harder. I’ve done that with mild success. It’s a desperation to look outside myself. To fix my eyes on someone greater. Someone who can not only change me, but who performed perfectly for me. I think that’s what it means, in part, to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”. It’s a slow and painful process, but I’m learning that weakness is the way.