As a country we do not like to be weak. The appeal of Donald Trump’s tough-talking rhetoric and “Make America Great Again” slogan reflects a will for power and disdain for weakness. Personally we don’t like weakness either. For example, it’s hard to make plans for the last years of our lives because we don’t want to imagine ourselves as able to do anything less or have anything less than is so right now.
And yet it is often the case that it is in weakness we can find life. This is the story of Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous. Only when alcoholics admit that they are unable to control their use of alcohol, when they recognize this “weakness” and surrender themselves to a higher power whom they trust more than themselves, do they begin to know life again. When life is good and comfortable, we can assume we are deservedly blessed by God or simply forget God altogether. But they say there are no atheists in foxholes. In weakness we know where our true strength lies.
The temptation is to hold onto a false sense of power and a false god. The man who talks with Jesus about how to inherit eternal life illustrates this tendency. He has been following the outward commandments from childhood, but something yet seems missing. Jesus hears his concern and loves him. Recognizing what blocks the man from life, Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow him. But the man can’t do that and goes away sad. He has wealth and power, and there is where his trust lies. Wealth and power are his gods. But they do not give life.
This story is challenging because we have many false gods. If we can avoid appearing weak in the world’s eyes, we often choose a life-less god. How wonderful that we have the story of Jesus. He taught with authority, but his disciples didn’t quite get his message. He died on a cross as a criminal. Plenty of weakness. But through his resurrection, his weakness became strength. The disciples got the message, and we have a chance at the good news. God’s grace is sufficient. No worldly weakness has to have the final word.
Where in your life have you experienced weakness? How have you handled it?
In what or whom do you trust?
God, you choose the weak and lowly to proclaim your strength and glory. Empower us to trust in you and live in your love.
For further reflection:
“Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (See 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10.)
“The heart is normally opened through a necessary hole in the soul, a sacred wound. Our wound is the only way, it seems, for us to get out of ourselves and for grace to get in.” –Richard Rohr