Right now I don’t really feel weak at all. Which is, maybe a problem?
This past Sunday, Pastor Um preached on 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, which I always found to be a kind of awkward, confusing portion of the Bible that took too much effort to understand. Needless to say, it’s been skimmed (and skimmed only) many times.
Anyway, this sermon was the first time I began to understand the passage, and it’s kind of incredible how relevant it is for our church and our city.
As much as I like “Boston Strong,” I think a more apt, though decidedly less slogan-friendly adjective–would be “ambitious.”
“Boston Ambitious’? Right, not the most catchy.
But really, in a city which comprises many many students, and at schools like Harvard or MIT or NEC, etc., a nontrivial reason we can’t just let our lives fall apart after being rocked by terrorist attacks is because we have world-conquering to do.
Myself included. I mentioned that I don’t feel weak right now–school is going the best it’s gone all year, events I’m planning are coming together, and the weather has warmed up enough for me to meet my long-lost soulmate, the Charles River Esplanade. And it’s hard to feel weak when you’re starting to run again!
But, Sunday evening things were not going so great. And here begins a reluctant application of what Pastor Um’s sermon exhorted us to do–boast in your weaknesses. I.e., even when the culture around you is all about having an awesome CV, awesome social life, and also being awesomely good looking…pursue instead a posture of active weakness.
Because, as I’m slowly slowly realizing, weakness–along with all its cousins; failure, loneliness, rejection–is precious.
Nevertheless, there was nothing precious about getting a 75% on the first practice exam I took on Sunday, the night before our test, despite having studied pretty consistently for weeks. And I don’t know if this is just me, but when one part of me feels insecure, all of my other latent insecurities reactivate too until I’m stuck in a veritable feedback loop of self-doubt.
So, feeling academically unprepared, feeling un-pretty, un-ambitious, un-cool–my career will be mediocre, I can never finish anything I start, I’ll never get married, I’m bad at xyz, I don’t work hard enough, I don’t belong here, etc. etc. etc.
There I am, sitting at my desk crying (yes, crying! srsly) over this bad test score and how much bacterial pathogenesis I’ve managed to not remember, doing the only thing I know how to do in these times–write and pray.
And through my petty/pathetic tears, through this very n00b scuffle with my own weaknesses, God met me. I thought of the morning’s sermon, how I’d felt just a few hours before that I needed to embrace my weaknesses more. Well, God doesn’t answer a lot of my prayers very promptly but this one was like Amazon Prime Prayer or something.
Even as I was aware of how trivial and tiny my “suffering” was, God brought to my mind Romans 5–that we rejoice in suffering, because suffering produces character, and character produces hope. And I had to look up what came next–that hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
At that moment, when I was feeling acutely lonely and undesirable, God reminded me that the presence of his Spirit in the heart of a Christian, actually with us moment-to-moment despite the zillions of repugnant things we do, reaffirms that his love for is is not just a love that wants to save/justify, but a love that wants to be with. A love the desires to walk alongside in weakness and strength, in all the messiness that imperfect life in an imperfect world entails.
And that not only is God present, but he is powerful–the triumphant conclusion of P. Um’s sermon was 2 Corinthians 12:9–“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
But so often the presence of God and the power of God are cloaked by our own deluded impression that we are gods. That we are powerful, that we are sufficient.
Weakness is precious because in weakness, this cloak is mercifully removed. This is something many Christians realize pretty early on, but less apparent is the need to “boast,” or be real about our weaknesses. There is opportunity for others to see how good God is, how kind God is, when we share stories of the ways in which we’re weak. There’s opportunity for us to be reminded in remembering our own stories.
And you know, one more admission of weakness–I really can’t figure out how to end this entry, which is already much much too long, and I’m really sleepy and nonfunctional after midnight! See previous entry re: writing being an awful struggle sometimes. So, this is the end! If you read this far you’re AMAZING–goodnight.