Leaving Room For Weakness

Ben once had the opportunity to meet a well-known pastor who preaches some of the best sermons we’ve listened to online. He’s written a great book, and whenever we listen to his messages, we continually find him to be full of wisdom and wit, with a very warm, approachable style. I always imagined he would be a very charismatic in person, and was a little disappointed when I heard that Ben would be meeting him without me.

But the most interesting thing happened. When Ben met this amazing, gifted pastor, he turned out to be quite socially awkward – not what Ben was expecting at all! They awkwardly conversed for a short time, and then the pastor had to go on stage to address the congregation.

Ben said it was the most amazing transformation – that socially awkward man turned back into the warm, passionate, charismatic preacher that Ben was used to listening to online.

I eagerly listened to Ben’s description of this transformation, not just because I would have loved to have been there myself – I drank it in because it gave me great hope.

I know what it feels like to swing from strength to weakness, and back again, wishing that those mountain-top experiences could just last forever.

Sometimes I feel confused about the balance of strengths and weaknesses in my life. Sometimes I wonder why God chose my combination of personality and giftings. I might have chosen differently!

And I was reminded of it again this week. I was invited to speak at a girls’ club event at my sister’s church in Altona. Although I have done that kind of thing often, I’ve never done it with a group of kids. But the whole thing was incredibly fun, and I enjoyed myself immensely.


God is awesome that way. We do what we’ve been gifted to do, and He makes it so much fun!

So I go out, and do my speaking/teaching thing, and every time, I experience such joy, such an energy, and a feeling that I’m doing what I was born to do. And I always think to myself, “I wish I could do this for the rest of my life.”

And then it ends, and I put down the microphone, or my audience moves on to the next thing, and I transform back to the usual, little old me, with my feelings of insecurity, and my tendency to feel slightly socially awkward in large group settings.

Lots of the time, that’s the part where I wonder why God didn’t make me super outgoing and bubbly, with a ton of natural energy, fed by large groups of people.

Why did He make me an introvert, preferring one-on-one conversations, and needing a ton of down-time for every loud, people-filled event? It makes my own “transformation” quite jarring, most times.

I want to question His judgement, but then I remember that pastor, and I think to myself that if he can find his way through, so shall I.

And I realize that there is much wisdom in this experience of shifting from strength to weakness:

God is strong in our weakness.

Because these spiritual gifts come from Him, it is amazing to me how God-given strengths shine more clearly against the backdrop of our human weaknesses.

It seems so freeing to me, once I get past my desire to appear strong and perfect in all areas, to think that I don’t have be able to do everything, or know everything, or be everything. My weakness lets other people see what I would truly be like all the time, if I didn’t ever get some help from the Holy Spirit. I could start pretending that those moments of divine intervention were really me. How wonderful that God keeps it from happening!

We need others in our weakness.

If we could do it all on our own, we probably would. And God knew that. It must be so beautiful to Him when we help each other out, and work together in love and unity.

I think of how it makes me feel when my girls are playing peacefully together – life at home seems pretty much perfect. Multiply that many times over, and we probably still can’t ever understand how God feels when we work together, and rely on each other.

I went to that girls’ club event, and I absolutely loved every minute of sharing with them. And then I loved every minute of watching my sister using some of her strengths, as she headed up the crafts time afterwards – every detail in place, every ribbon and paper cut as neatly and precisely as could be imagined. She coolly and calmly sails through challenges, always efficient. I was so thankful to her for saving me from details. Details stress me out to no end, and suck the energy out of me.

She seems to thrive on handling details. Although we may be sisters, it is extremely obvious to me that we were made to fill different roles in life. And this week, that was wonderful. Every time we talked on the phone to co-ordinate things, I was so thankful for the way in which she took care of details so that I could focus on preparing my little talk.

And then the next morning, I did the same talk at our homeschool group, but this time it was my sweet friend Becky who took care of all the details. She did it in a completely different way than my sister had, and it was just as wonderful.

When we are willing to step out and share our strengths, we free others from having to work out of their weakness. Everybody gets to do what is life-giving to them, and the job gets done together.

I love the feeling of it. But I wouldn’t ever get to experience it if I didn’t have any weaknesses. I wouldn’t fully appreciate others’ strengths. I wouldn’t be reminded that “my” strengths aren’t really mine, anyway.

And that is what has been giving me joy and freedom this week.

So, tell me – What do you wish you could be freed to do for the rest of your life?

We Don’t Know Everybody’s Stuff

Let’s talk about weight for a little bit, shall we? I realize it’s an uncomfortable topic to choose, but I have a story to share.

And really, it’s a story which has to do with weight…but doesn’t at all. I think it often works that way – weight doesn’t actually have to do with weight. It has to do with a whole lot of other stuff….

Each winter, Red Rock Bible Camp puts on a retreat for mothers and their daughters to attend. For the five years we lived at camp, it was one of my winter highlights to host this retreat. It is such a great event, and I always loved being a part of it. Just give me a mic, and a room full of people required to listen to me, and I will happily rise to the occasion.

One of those years, I was pregnant with our miracle baby during this retreat, and the next year, I hosted the weekend with our sweet baby girl in my arms.

At one point that weekend, a woman came up to me, and said, “I remember you being pregnant at this retreat last year, and I’ve seen you with your baby girl this weekend, but you don’t look like you just had a baby. I have to ask…How did you manage to lose weight so fast after having a baby? Tell me your secret!!”

I stood there awkwardly for a second, completely unsure of what to say.

She was a total stranger, and I was pretty sure she didn’t want a complete history of all the health problems I’d experienced which made weight-gain incredibly difficult.

She probably didn’t want to hear about how hard I struggled to gain weight during pregnancy, and she probably wouldn’t understand what it was like to worry that I wouldn’t be able to sustain that precious little life inside me.

I was guessing she didn’t want a sob-story about how I had to stop nursing about five months earlier than I wanted to, just because I was losing far too much weight, and was unable to keep my body and my baby’s body strong and healthy.

She probably wouldn’t want me to try to explain to her how much it hurt my feelings when people said things like, “You’re skin and bones! You’re wasting away!” Or “You look like you need to gain about 30 pounds!”

My secret? Well, I ate about twice as much as my six foot tall husband, went through an entire bag of chips in one sitting, and cried a lot because all I wanted was to be strong and healthy. (Um, that totally doesn’t go along with the bag of chips, but whatever.) Here’s my secret: No matter how much I ate, I could not gain weight.That might sound appealing, but it definitely has its struggles.

That poor lady had no idea how badly I wanted to walk into a store and easily find a good pair of jeans that would just fit me, without having to take them home and alter them myself on my sewing machine, breaking about five needles in the process.

She had no idea that while she was longing to know “my secret”, I was longing to look in the mirror and not see someone who looked skinny and sickly.

I would see other too-skinny people and think, “Oh no! They look terrible – do I look that bad??

This whole multitude of thoughts rushed through my head in the seconds I stood before this woman who asked to know my secret.

Finally, I smiled awkwardly, and said, “Well, I have some health issues, so my problem is gaining weight, not losing it.”

Of course, she immediately felt awful and apologetic, and wanted to get away as fast as possible. I didn’t want to make her feel bad for asking – she had no way of knowing. I tried to put her at ease, and let her know it was no big deal, but she took off pretty fast.

My mind has often gone back to that conversation, even now as I sit here wearing a pair of jeans straight off the rack, no alterations! I don’t think about my weight much anymore – I’ve decided not to worry about it. If I’m skinny, I’m skinny, and so be it. I’ll be buff in heaven.

But I think about that conversation because it illustrates so clearly to me how we see the surface of other people’s lives, and we think we know far more about them than we truly do.

I see something desirable about another person’s life, and I start to wish it could be mine. But I pick and choose. I don’t want all aspects of that person’s life. Just one or two parts that look better than my parts.

Well, that looks so much more nasty when I type it out than when I think it in a dark corner of my mind. Do I have any idea what I’m truly wishing for? What secrets are hiding behind those desirable qualities?

Or what about annoying situations when we are frustrated by other people? We see the choices others make, and think we know why, but how could we? I find myself sometimes getting annoyed by their actions, unable to see a good reason for why anyone would make such frustrating choices.

But really, do I have a clue as to what is actually going on in someone’s head when they make that decision? Is it really done just to frustrate me, or could it possibly be something far below the surface of what I see, some secret hurt or struggle which affects every choice, colors every judgement?

There is no possible way we can fully understand another person’s motives or secrets. A whole life has been lived behind each hurt, each decision, each outward appearance.

So about that poor woman who wished for my ability to lose weight? I think it comes with a lot more than she bargained for.

I think of her, and I’m reminded not to envy the small chunk of another person’s success which happens to be visible. What else am I not seeing?

I think of her, and I try to remember not to be frustrated with people who make choices I do not understand. What secrets lead to those choices? What “moments of weakness” are actually years of hardship, built up over time, and finally spilling over in that one specific moment?

I don’t know all your stuff. You don’t know all of mine. But rich, wonderful things happen when we start to share that stuff, and life gets really beautiful when we start passing around a lot of grace for the deep, dark secrets we don’t understand.

If you want to read some more posts about relationships and people, you could check out Reasons Why I Need to Live in Community or Three Things I’m Learning About Getting Along With People.

If You’re Trying to Change a Habit…

As promised in my last blog post, I am here today to tell you about the little secret I’ve learned to living a worry-free life.

It’s actually not a “secret”, because I’ve heard it a million times before. I just didn’t fully understand what it was supposed to look like in real life. Thank goodness for Elizabeth George and her fantastic explanation which finally made things hit home for me.

She writes a lot about this verse:

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own. (Matthew 6:34 )

That verse has never been a comfort to me – each day has enough trouble of it’s own? It sounds like each day is so full of trouble that there will always be lots to worry about. I’ll be mentally busy for the rest of my life…

So I have always just ignored that verse, and worried about whatever I chose to worry about.

But what Elizabeth George writes about in her book, Loving God With All Your Mind, is that this is a command from God. All that we’re allowed to think about is today. He doesn’t want us filling our minds with worries and concerns about the future. He wants us to trust Him, and live today.

Do you know how many thoughts are eliminated by only thinking about today?

That means no thoughts about mistakes I’ve made in the past, and no thoughts about annoying things other people said or did. And it means no fears about the future, no concerns about things that haven’t even happened yet.

Obviously, it is necessary at times to plan for the future, and to be responsible in our preparation for the days to come.

But what I was doing a majority of the time could not be classified as necessary or responsible. On my first day of attempting to “only think about today”, I could not believe how many times I had to remind myself that I was mentally heading into forbidden territory.

“Oh, that’s dwelling on the past.”

“Oops… that’s worrying about the future.”

“Nope, that’s still worrying about the future!”

All day long, I was constantly reminding myself that my thoughts needed to stay on that day only.

And the strangest thing started to happen! I had so much “space” in my head that I hardly knew what to do with it. I had no idea what to think about all day. I could definitely see how it would be about twenty times easier to pray or memorize verses if I didn’t constantly have all that junk whirling around in my head.

For someone who doesn’t struggle with worry, that probably sounds really silly. How could it take me thirty-three years to figure that out? I guess we just get stuck in sinful habits, and for each of us, we have our areas of weakness that seem to get us every time.

So now what? It’s been a week since I started to give my “mind muscles” a workout. I can see how this will take some time to get used to. I’m getting better at recognizing what I’m doing, and seeing my thoughts for what they are. But I think it will be a while before this becomes natural or easy.

There are a couple of things that I keep thinking about:

1) Because it’s sinful to worry, and God commands me not to do it, I will be able to resist temptation, with His help.

2) The body naturally want to do what feels good for it. A while back, I shared this link to a message entitled “A Beautiful Mind”. The speaker talks about how our body begins to think, “Hey, this is a good choice. It makes me feel good. If I continue to repeat this action, I will feel good in the future.” And a new habit is born. Bad choices can feel good, in a different way than good choices do. If we continually focus on the good feeling that comes from good choices, our bodies will help us in the habits we are trying to form.

You know what? It feels so good to have less worry in my life! Who knew! Um, God did. (And Ben did, too! Man, I wish I could naturally be as calm and easy-going as he is!)

3) God created our bodies to function best without worry. Jesus tells us not to worry because He knows it’s best not to. It’s not just a friendly suggestion. It’s a command because He knows what’s best for our lives, and He knows that we were not created to carry that burden, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

4) Changing a habit is hard, but I can do it for today! When I think about the thoughts that pertain to today, the load looks really light. I can carry the load for today! Changing the entire way I think sounds daunting, but…I only have to do it for today!

So maybe worry is not your area of weakness. But most of these thoughts could probably apply to any area that we struggle with.

What’s your area? What do you struggle with that’s sucking the peace out of your life, and making you feel worn out and defeated? I wish I could share of burst of energy and encouragement with you today! God knows! God cares!

We say those things in such a glib way sometimes, and yet that’s what it all comes down to. It’s what I base my life on.

Want to share? Any struggles and/or words of encouragement you want to pass on to the rest of us?