I am so bad at so many things.
I am terrible at athletic things. If you doubt me, let me tell you this: in grade nine, the gym teacher let me serve the volleyball from the attack line.
I am not good at technology. My sound hasn’t worked on my phone for a few months and I haven’t done anything about it because I’m not sure what to do. I’m also rather hazy on this “cloud” about which I hear so much.
I talk too much. Yes, I know this to be true. I go into meetings saying to myself: “DON’T TALK TOO MUCH. Let other people talk. Be one of those reflective taking-it-all-in sort of people.” Then I come out going: “WHY DID YOU TALK SO MUCH???”
I am bad at a lot of my work things.
My eyes glaze over slightly when people talk about finances, budgets and policies. I need to do these things, but I’m not good at them.
I am often envious of the pastors who seem more inventive and creative than me. “I wish I had thought of that!” is a common thought in my head.
I have made incredible mistakes as a pastor. I have said and done the wrong thing. I have been haunted with regret.
I feel like I’ve failed when people leave our church. Even if they tell me everything is okay and it’s not about us, deep down I can’t help but lament that I did something wrong….and of course, sometimes – I did.
I am flailing at parenthood.
I get impatient quickly with crying, whining, and loudness. Sometimes I yell in exasperation.
I don’t know how to support my sensitive son and I don’t have the stamina to remain strong when parenting my willful daughter.
I live with doubt and fear that I have made mistakes that we can’t move past, that I will irrevocably mess them up, and that they will hate me for it one day.
Like I said, I am bad at a lot of things.
I didn’t even touch on housework.
Yes, I know I am also good at things. I would actually classify myself as a strong person, and in recent months have come to realize how important being viewed as “strong” is to me. Listing my weaknesses is not my favourite, and – let’s be honest – I only scratched the surface of what really hurts. I made peace about my lack of athleticism years ago, but some of the wounds from my pastoral, parenting and relational mistakes are still oozing too much to even name yet.
So why make this list?
I actually wrote this list today not out of despair but out of celebration – if you can believe it. I’ve been thinking about weakness ever since our church studied this famous verse from the Bible this week:
“But He said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
The man who wrote down this verse, the apostle Paul, shared these words in a letter to a church in a place called Corinth. Unfortunately, it seems that he was having some conflict with his friends there. In fact, snippets of the letter show that many of these friends were beginning to criticize Paul. You get the sense that they were doubting if he should be an apostle at all.
Paul does at first challenge them about their assessment of him. He tells them, rather tongue-in-cheek, about all the things he’s done to show his commitment to Jesus. But then he does a really odd thing. He reminds them – this out-to-get-him group – of his weakness. He tells them that he has had a “thorn” in his flesh which he asked God to remove THREE TIMES. God didn’t take it. Instead He said: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
I’ve got a few thorns (see above), and I don’t like them. I’ve asked God – often – to change me. To make me a different type of pastor or parent or person. I’ve wanted my weaknesses to go away.
Yet, this is why I celebrate. I celebrate because God’s words to Paul are also for me: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
I have all the weaknesses I listed here, and more. And I have experienced sufficient grace. I have known enough grace. I have known adequate grace.
My list is a miracle. Really, it would seem that my world should be falling apart with all the things I am incapable of doing! But it isn’t, and it never really has – although there are days it’s felt close. Yet, even on those days, there was sufficient grace. Grace that rescued me from the need to be strong, and let me find God where I was weak.
Jesus does not demand our strength, although that doesn’t stop me from trying to prove to Jesus how strong I am. Jesus meets us right smack dab in our weakness. Jesus shows up most when I say: “I CAN’T DO THIS!” instead of when I’m walking around so sure I can do it all.
At the end of this section of his letter, Paul actually says that he will BOAST about his weakness. He’s going to say: “Look at all the things I’m not!” – so that people can see what GOD is.
I may not be ready to boast, but I can start with naming. “I have weaknesses. I have thorns. I have messed up – and will again.”
And always, always – sufficient grace.