Friday, February 22, 2013

Learning to be Weak

Though I can't find it now, I ran across a quote awhile back which really got my attention. The gist of it is that there is no place for independence in the Christian's life. We are to depend on God for everything, for we have been called to die to self so that Christ might live within. He is to be enthroned in our hearts, and from Him comes everything we need to live in this world as pilgrims.

I think this quote initially spoke to me because my life has gone so much in the opposite direction. At some point during my childhood, I vowed to myself that I would take care of myself because no one else ever would. As a child of abuse, I learned to keep my own counsel. I taught myself to not mind too much if there were no sympathetic adults in my world to whom I could confide my little (and big) troubles. 

What I was forced to learn, nearly overnight, was how to look out for myself. My mother chose other things over protecting her little brood. My father was out of the picture, and my stepfather was the tyrant who abused every child in the house.

How old was I when I made that vow? Probably no older than 7 or 8. Sad, isn't it? I can understand why the vow was made. When adults abdicate their responsibilities and jesters rule the children are forced to take on burdens they should never have to carry.

I became so good at tending to myself---too good, really. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I've been tending to myself for too long. As a child I couldn't have functioned or made it through those horrible years if I didn't find the ability and strength to parent myself. But what about the after years? What about all the decades since then when I've lived in the same manner? I thought it was a strength of mine to find a measure of control in my often chaotic life. Now I'm not so sure. After reading that quote I'm questioning the steely control necessary to bring some order out of chaos.

Control makes me feel, well, in control. As if I can orchestrate things in such a way that I can assure their outcome and never be unpleasantly surprised. Submission to the Lord's leading causes me to feel weak. I have to unclench my fists in order to accept anything from Him, and it's scary letting go. If I let go, what then? Will everything fall apart because He doesn't think that this, that or the other is as important as I do? And if so, well that should tell me something. That should tell me that my priorities are all askew.

Funny, but the one thing I've always thought I got right in my walk with the Lord is my ability to be stoic, to bear whatever comes my way. To keep control at all times, control over my feelings, thoughts, and desires as well as everything going on in my little corner of the world.

But I can't, not really. That kind of control is an illusion. The things I clench in both hands can be taken from me in a heartbeat; they're not really mine. I think they're mine. Like a child who grabs another child's stuffed bunny and holds it tightly to her chest, crying, "Mine, mine!" I grab and hold on for dear life to anything which I can't imagine living without. As long as its within my grasp I consider myself to be its owner--but the reality is that everything I have belongs to God. He has freely given these things to me (whether they be talents, friendships, possessions, etc.); there is really no reason to cling to them so tightly. And all the clinging in the world won't keep them next to me if He leads me through a season of loss.

I shouldn't be surprised by this new realization that I've been doing this all wrong. Spiritual reality is so different from the physical world in which we live. We must die to live, lose our lives to save them, be last in order to be first. Why should my weakness being a source of strength be so surprising? When I am weak, then am I strong, I believe the Apostle Paul wrote. Of course, of course!

I love gaining new insights into the kingdom life. This is one over which I will ponder long and hard. The habits of a lifetime die hard. No overnight success, here! I'll take a few steps, fall and scrape my knees, pick myself back up and start the process of learning to be weak all over again. Or, rather than pick myself up, I'll eventually learn that the safest place to fall is into the arms of my Lord. 

I don't think it matters how many times I stumble and fall; what matters is that I'm stumbling in the direction of Heaven.

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