The Myth of Human Strength

My best and brightest moments have been laced with weakness.

We met our first two children in Ethiopia and spent our first days of parenting in a tempered state of shock over the rolling meltdowns. While adopting our second two children from Uganda, I saw miracle-level movements of God I’d never before or since seen. Even in the times when we’ve repeated the stories, I feel that lump-in-my-throat awe over just how rare they were and how near He felt. And yet in between those miracle days were tearful nights under mosquito nets and terse words spoken to the man I love, the one who brought us there, and more of my own meltdowns than I’d like to admit over power outages and the broken shower in the guest home and the smoggy air.

(Nate tells the stories from Uganda — these glorious moments that only God could have orchestrated — to new friends and others who hadn’t heard what we saw and I can’t help but flash back to the argument we had outside of the van scheduled to take us to our court appointment, and in front of the unsuspecting driver who quickly got schooled in American conflict.)

I birthed my first biological baby after twelve years of marriage. Twelve years of waiting … and more than long hours of labor.

Yet somehow I still imagine the most glorious moments I have ahead of me in God to be seamless. I look at others who’ve accomplished what I consider to be great feats of faith and ignorantly assume they came with ease.

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Recently, a friend who has been a missionary to a remote village in Africa for years witnessed those she loved getting their hands on the very first translated New Testaments in their language. Translators had been working for 20+ years on these pages and the ones in her community now held their own Bible, in their native tongue. My friend sent me pictures and I cried — couldn’t get it out of my mind for days, this momentous event of hungry people getting the food of the Word. But when we finally connected so that I could hear her voice telling me more of the story, she cautioned me. This is complicated, Sara, she said. Bibles that could be read fell in the hands of many who have never read anything in their own language. This pinnacle moment was, in fact, another beginning towards a different ascent. These Bibles would be sweated over before they were read.

Our greatest moments in God are laced with weakness and we humans don’t like it.

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Though I quote Paul’s letters to my children and to my fickle heart, I often forget what he walked through in order to be able to say “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). I love that David was a man with a pulse melded towards God and one about whom God looked through his boyishly-rouged cheeks to see a heart that could hunger, but I’d like to ignore the tryst that leveled his life and made him weak and needy for God, and the son who stealthily betrayed him.

I want His best moments to also include me, at my best. I give accolades to friends who “pulled it off” and slap an “I’m doing well” on the times when I feel best about my motherhood and my home and my marriage and my writing and my friendships. I still want the great strength of God and my own great strength, too.

But it never happens that way. No, never.

When my human strength attempts to compete with His glory (let’s be honest: near daily), I am subtly despising the unique way (read: unfamiliar, unconventional, not-of-this-place-where-we-live) that He moves in power.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

It’s a rare thing that I call my weakness a treasure. But to skip to that step and merely use the verbiage — while still secretly wanting the glory of God to seamlessly manifest within my tightened life — I miss what David had. What Paul had. (And, ahem, I then lead people to me.)

They knew His eyes on them when all hell broke loose in their life. They knew destitution of the heart and body and yet also how one received look from God made that single moment their richest. They knew what it was like to have their heart … race. In love. From love. All because of a surprising brush with the near gaze of God in their most unsuspecting hour.

When I’m admittedly weak (because, as my husband sometimes tells me, my stated “weak moments” are truly just the ones where I’m acknowledging a weakness that was already there before I noticed it), I’m supple. Receptive. His glory streams brighter through all the holes in my countenance.

So, people, let’s stop dreaming about the day when it’s all slick and we’re strong and then God is glorified. It’s a myth.

So, people, let’s stop dreaming about the day when it’s all slick and we’re strong and then God is glorified. It’s a myth.

In your sweatpants and a top knot and un-showered, He has power (and He sees you). At the height of some sort of messy unfolding of a new thing He’s led you to do, He has power (and He sees you). With your arms around a child who would rather be anywhere else than with you, He has power (and He sees you). By the bedside of a friend, He has power (and He sees you). In your own hospital bed or nursing a tireless infant at 3am, He has power (and He sees you).

In the kingdom of God, all those places about which we’ve been complaining, where we feel so weak, are in fact the places for our greatest access to the truest Glory.

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. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Photos compliments of Cherish Andrea Photography and Mandie Joy.
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