Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Un-Bucket List

I stopped in my tracks as I read, "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  It was the verse of the day above my kitchen sink, but it stayed there more than a week.
The context wasn't new.  The verse wasn't new.  But I wondered how many weaknesses or infirmities I could list in thirty seconds.  Even a minute.  I wanted to, but knew I would come up lacking.  If my weakness is truly my boast and pleasure, it should be at the forefront of my mind.  I should be able share a fifteen-minute discourse.  What I needed was an here-I-am-after-kicking-the-bucket list.  You laugh because you know that, by now, God has given me the privilege. 
A few days into my brewing weakness inventory, the morning was dreary and I wanted to sit back and do nothing. I had a couple of hours and knew I could hunker down with hot chocolate, animal crackers, and a chick flick.  The house was empty.  But thoughts of the manuscript I wanted to edit, the emails that needed to be sent, the laundry, cleaning and cooking hammered in my head.  "God, if you want me to get it done, you're going to have to move me.  I don't want to do any of it."  It wouldn't have gotten done, but it did.  I am weak.  God is strong.
To make more sense of the verse, I studied "weakness" in other Scripture passages.  In Romans, Paul wrote, "I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh."  That rattled in my head for a day or two.  "The weakness of your flesh...."  And I remembered the Roman death penalty that involved tying a murder victim to the murderer's body, limb to limb, until the murderer succumbed to infection and decay. Our spiritual, "new man," indwelt by the Spirit, is incorruptible and can't be decayed, but I pictured the hand of my new man reaching out to offer compassion or care, bound to the old man's hand.  Both are visible and present. Thus the struggle with sparring motivations. When the foot of my new, Christ-filled self steps out in faith, it is accompanied by a rotting foot that seeks to go it's own way.  Moving forward requires determination, prayer and dependence on God.  This is the weakness of my flesh (and gives life to Romans 7-8).
Friday I emailed a dear friend who lived 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 the last two years.  After reading her response and enjoying the wonderful turnout we had for a bonfire with international students at our home, the light came on.  We appreciate, acknowledge and praise people for the outcome of a successful event, project or activity.  But the praise and thanks does not belong to us.  It is the "power of Christ."  Mine is the weakness; the inability to reach the goal; the incapacity to control the variables, the infirmity and ignorance that precede and intersect each interaction, each moment.  My glory, my boast, is in what I cannot do.  Why? Because as God works, He is magnified.  My inability is a directional device that points others to Him.  The results build His reputation as a powerful, loving, amazing God who works marvelously through objects that were once dead, but walk in newness of life--breathing His breath, using His eyes, thinking His thoughts, functioning as His Body. 
What a gracious, loving God to use empty vessels!  Empty.  For if we are not empty, how will He fill us?
Which begs the questions:  How empty am I?  How weak?  How aware of my pain and sorrow and brokenness?  If God is glorified in my weakness, do I know it?  Walk in it?  Glory in it?  I've started a yes-I've-kicked-the-bucket-and-this-is-how-you-know-it list.  I hope you'll join me.


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