Dismissing Weakness

fa9db8c0924ef1edf529be2eb5501a03God can use anyone at anytime. We dismiss ourselves, but He doesn’t.

Lord my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. (1 Kings 3:7)

Solomon dismissed himself…at least, in some areas. But those areas became the basis of what He trusted God to provide. Instead of using his lack as an excuse, he used it as a springboard of trusting faith.

Your servant is among Your people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9)

We often want to hide our weaknesses. They make us feel vulnerable and unworthy. We want to dismiss them, but when we do, we dismiss ourselves.

God wants to use what we think dismisses us, because He knows our willingness to admit them and trust Him puts us in the exact position to rely on Him to use us well, weaknesses and all!

A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand.

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg.

Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something.

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame.

I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity.

We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us.

He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place.

“But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

He also said to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:7-14)

Lesson from Nature: Stronger than You Think

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

Just because something looks precarious doesn’t mean it is. Just because it looks strong doesn’t mean it has a lasting, dependable strength.

We’re usually taught to rely on our own strength. If we have to rely on anyone else, we’re seen as weak. At least, that’s been the predominant cultural message for quite a while. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Stand on your own two feet.” “Make sure you can provide for yourself.” Responsibility is a good thing, but self-reliance isn’t. It will get us into trouble, because we’ll begin to believe that we’re in charge, that we control what will happen next because of our own efforts. But, think about it, how much do you truly do with absolutely no influence or assistance from anyone else? People are interdependent. We need each other.

And we need God.

If we believe we have the strength to withstand everyday pressures, what happens when one day’s pressures become too much? We think the ledge beneath our feet will hold us up, because it has, day after day. But one day, we don’t realize how the ledge has been weakened over time, and a large chunk falls beneath us. On the other hand, if we believe we have no strength, we don’t step onto the ground that gives us the best perspective. We don’t fully enjoy what God has planned for us. We let fear and insecurity guide our steps instead of God’s assurance.

Strength isn’t ours to muster. We get it from somewhere. And that means we have to go to the source of it.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. (Psalm 29:7)

Is Sensitivity a Fault?

BoxTurtle2I was being hard on myself.

Why did I let other people’s tones, attitudes, and issues affect my own? Was I being overly sensitive? Was my sensitivity a bad thing? Was I letting close relationships impact me too much?

Deep breath.

Yes, sensitivity can be a fault. If I’m sensitive to the extent that I let everyone else influence, and even determine, my response, I’m not strong to stand firmly. I have a foundation issue, letting other people build, shake, and destroy, instead of trusting God to guide me in securely placing each stone, brick, board, and nail.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! (Matthew 7:24-27)

But I’m not leaving my sensitivity in the rubble. Just because it can be a weakness, it can also be a strength. In fact, it’s an important building block of the foundation God wants me to have. It’s part of who He is.

Without sensitivity, I cannot have compassion for others.

Without sensitivity, I cannot listen well.

Without sensitivity, I cannot authentically invest in relationships.

Without sensitivity, I cannot seek and trust God to lead my life.

Without sensitivity, I might avoid getting hurt, but what I would lose without sensitivity isn’t worth the cost. I don’t want to miss out on deeply investing in people’s lives, regardless of their messiness.

I certainly don’t want to miss out on the presence of God. God is never without sensitivity. When I willingly seek and follow Him, neither am I.

The Parable of the Cracked Pot

crackedpotA woman had two large pots, and she trudged to the well each day to get water with one pot hung on each end of a pole which the woman carried across the back of her neck and shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. By the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full, which caused the woman to struggle under the unbalanced weight of the pots.

Every day, the woman complained about the cracked pot as she filled it, knowing it would not hold all the water she placed in it. She complained about the potter who made it, blaming him for not making it more durable. She complained about her husband, who insisted there was not enough money to replace it. She complained as she trudged back to her house with the unbalanced load, and as she emptied the water into the barrel at home, she complained that she did not have more.

For a full two years this went on daily with the woman ending up with only one and a half pots full of water to use at home.

One day, the woman wept as she turned from the well to return home, noticing the stream already falling from the cracked pot. As she trudged along the path with her head hung in weariness, she noticed one side of the path was bursting with the colors of budding flowers. The beauty of the flowers was stark against the otherwise parched land. She hadn’t noticed the flowers until today, perhaps because she had been so focused on complaining about her cracked pot.

As she walked the path lined on one side with flowers, she realized the flowers were being nourished by the small stream of water running from her cracked pot. That day, when she returned home and emptied the half-filled cracked pot, she smiled, knowing where the remaining water had been left along the path and the purpose it had fulfilled as she walked home. (Author Unknown)

What flaws do you complain about the most?

How extensive is your complaining? Do you find ways to complain about a variety of people and situations, all related to the same flaw(s)?

How can you begin to see the beauty that may result from the flaw(s)? What will you require before changing your attitude?

Each of us has flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But when we allow God to work in and through our weaknesses, amazing beauty results!

Confessions of an Insufficient Pray-er

dandelion

I feel insufficient in my prayer life.

I’ve definitely grown in recent years, but I still have so much to learn…and apply. Prayer is one of those areas that I believe there will always be “more” that is possible.

I’m learning a lot from prayer warriors in my life, and one of the lessons has surprised me: even those people I most respect as prayer warriors recognize insufficiencies in their prayer lives. Well, perhaps that’s a misrepresentation. They’re not really insufficiencies, because it’s our very need to approach God and give everything, mainly ourselves, to him through prayer that acknowledges that we are sufficient in our insufficiencies when we take them to God. When we are humble in God’s presence, we are bold in his. When we are weak in God’s presence, we are strong in his. When we take everything within us–including our foolishness, questions, doubts, pride, excuses, fears, and so much more–to him in prayer, we are trusting him to sift through everything and reveal what needs to be tossed aside, what needs to be replaced, and what needs to be enhanced.

Prayer isn’t about perfection. It’s about willingness.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to classify myself as a prayer warrior, because I’ll always see a way that I can and should grow. That’s not to say I’ll get down on myself about it or let it paralyze me into not praying as I want to and know I can and should. Seeing my weaknesses doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because acknowledging my weaknesses can simply be an invitation to let God work in and through them. They’re a reminder he’s God and I’m not.

Weaknesses in my prayer life–or any other area of life–are reminders of opportunities to let God work.

So, I might not be a prayer warrior, but I am a prayer-warrior-in-training. And in order to train, I have to rely on someone who knows a lot more about it than I do. There are certainly people around me whom I respect and who pour into and challenge me, but the best trainer for me is God. He’s the one that knows more about prayer than anyone else, and he knows more about me than anyone else. In order for me to grow and learn from what God wants to teach me as a prayer-warrior-in-training, I have to listen, and that requires…prayer!

It’s time to train!

When God Is Done

I recently had a big decision to make. I was confident I was following the “right” path. I had consistent confirmations I was headed in the right direction. I was faced with no hesitations or cautions…so when the first warning light flashed, it was blinding and disorienting.

Had I heard wrong? Was I completely off track? What was I supposed to do now?

“Give it to God, and ask him not to give it back to you until he’s done with it.”

I greatly respect the man who gave me the advice. He shared a personal, convicting experience with me. I was confident God was using him to guide me through the next step.

You see, I was trying to reason through the situation, making sense of it. Reason isn’t a bad thing. God created us as thinking beings – we’re created in his image, and he’s an organized thinker – but I can take it to an extreme. When my God-given capacity to think draws me away from God instead of pulling me toward him, what he gave me as a strength becomes a weakness. I was trying to make sense of something that God wanted me to rely on him through. He wanted me to rest in him.

I did.

I gave the situation to God and asked him not to give it back to me until he was done with it.

A couple days later, he handed it back to me. Done.

It wasn’t the outcome I would have expected based on the prior months. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t consistent with what I’d experienced. But I knew…it was done. I said no to something I thought I’d say yes to, and while I wrestled with it a few days earlier, struggling to make sense of it so all the pieces fit the way I expected them to fit, I was at peace. All the pieces fit – not in a way I could explain or even understand, but in a way I could trust.

God is reliable. He is trustworthy. He is compassionate. He is just. He is good.

I’m not recommending this approach to you as a cop-out. Don’t try to give something to God, expecting him to give it back to you in a neat box, when you’re actually hanging onto it the whole time. If you’re going to surrender something to him, you’re going to need to completely relinquish it. And you’re going to need to accept what he gives you in return. It might not be a beautiful box tied neatly with a bright bow. You might not “get it.”

Getting it isn’t the goal. Getting God is.

Lord, I trust you. I have said, “You are my God.” Psalm 31:14