A few days ago, I made a post about how I've been contemplating the nature of weakness in the Christian life.
It's amazing how passionate we can be when we start thinking about God's truth, his power, and how much his grace can change our lives.
And then God tells us to put our money where our mouth is.
I'm still reeling a bit, so this will probably be more random ramblings than a coherent thesis followed by support, conclusion and a few nice points of application. My LIFE is application! The basic story is that I lead a small group of high school girls in a youth group. I normally have four or five girls, all of whom have very different personalities. Over the last few months of getting to know them, I've really come to love them all - it's been really fun to 'hone' my teaching skills and to help them wrestle with issues in their everyday life. It's hard to walk with God in a real way in high school. I know. High school was not that long ago for me, and I don't think you could pay me enough money to do that again. Been there. Done that, and got many t-shirts.
But I digress. The point is that I feel for them, and I know that a lot of them have a much tougher time than I ever did, as a result of many different circumstances.
But there's this one girl. The last two times our small group has met, she has dominated the group. I can't complete a sentence without her interrupting me. I can't teach my lesson because she's saying that it's stupid. "I don't believe in God." "God's dumb." "I'm not going to trust God; God's mean." And it's not so much that she's genuinely wrestling, it's that she doesn't want to believe; she doesn't want to wrestle, and she doesn't want to let anybody else wrestle either.
Basically, she's rude and it's all I can do to make an effort to keep some semblance of the group going. Nobody shares prayer requests anymore. In fact, nobody really says anything, except when they giggle at something she says. After the last meeting, I described the feeling as akin to punching a brick wall.
It's honestly one of the most helpless feelings I've had in a long time. It's not the helpless of watching a friend suffer and entrusting her to God's loving hands because I know that I can't heal her gaping wound. It's the helpless of using every means within my grasp - short of physical violence or extreme verbal abuse - to simply be able to put 5 words together in a sentence without being interrupted. It's the helpless of preparing a lesson about how awesome God is and how much he loves us and watching it become little pieces of paper for her to throw at her friend. It's the helpless of giving a really good seminary-student answer to what I thought was an honest question and hearing about the cute boy in her art class in return. It's the helpless of thinking every thirty seconds of an entire hour, "Can we be done yet?" And it's the helpless of having one of the girls verbalize that same thought towards the end of that painful hour.
Weakness, Lord ... it's beyond humbling; it's humiliating to be shut down by a 15 year old girl. Weakness, Lord ... help me to learn how to be faithful to you and in my commitment to these girls even when I'd really like to just curl up in a ball in the corner. Weakness, Lord ... even when I think that I can be a good teacher and I have good things to say, you show me that it's more important to trust you. Weakness, Lord ... any semblance of self-sufficiency that I feel in helping other people is demolished. Weakness, Lord ... I feel so empty, I don't know how I'm going to go back in there again next week and love that girl and try again. Weakness, Lord ... I can't imagine what will touch her, but I know that nothing and nobody is beyond your grasp.
You see, it's not a theoretical, "God is glorified when I talk about my weaknesses as though that's the part of me he likes best." It's a reflective, "I can't possibly do anything else in my own strength in this situation. I have nothing to offer here." If I thought I was making a difference in these girls lives, I've let go of some of that tonight. If I thought they respected me, I don't glory in that anymore. If I thought they even liked me and thought I was cool, I am no longer deluded.
And it's here that the Gospel reaches into my life. I see how much of my "filthy rags" I've been hanging on to. How I've got cool-with-the-high schoolers-righteousness. I-don't-really-wrestle-with-fear-of-man-righteousness. I-have-theological-answers-righteousness.
Here's a theological answer for me : “We will never have enough confidence in him unless we become deeply distrustful of ourselves; we will never lift up our hearts enough in him unless they be previously cast down in us; we will never have consolation enough in him unless we have already experienced desolation in ourselves” (John Calvin; read this morning for class -- very timely!).
And I'm thankful. I'm thankful that God is teaching me how to be faithful in a difficult time. I'm thankful that it's really not that difficult. I'm thankful that he promises that his Word will not return empty. I'm thankful that his Spirit is working in their hearts, even though I can't see it (faith is the conviction of things not seen). I'm thankful that I still desire to love these girls and to serve them and to make a difference in their lives. I'm thankful that he's giving me this opportunity to make the Gospel more real in my life, emptying my heart of myself and learning to trust my redeemer.
So here I am, actually boasting about my weaknesses. And the reason is so that God might be glorified in and through me, and so that Christ's power might be perfected in me. And strangely, I find myself right now saying with Paul, "All the more gladly."