It’s been a whopping 9 weeks. Sometimes it feels like it’s been an eternity. At other times, it feels like just yesterday we were emotionally boarding a plane, checking way more bags than the average traveler, and lugging our pooch, with fresh eyes to the adventures ahead.
I know that I’m young. I know that I’m inexperienced. However, when we left, I at least felt like I had a little bit of life-experience and ministry-experience under my belt.
Regardless of what experience I have or don’t have, everyone feels a temptation to prove themselves at the start of a new phase of life. We want to show the world, our new employers, and mostly ourselves, that we are capable and will prevail. Over the course of the past few months it seems like deep in my soul Stuart Smalley is quietly repeating his classic phrase “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
But, no matter how hard I fight to prove myself, how desperately I cling to whispers of approval, how traumatized I am at rejection, there has been one giant lesson broadcasted on every channel of my life: I’m weak.
I don’t know why it is a message that we are so quick to forget. I mean, it is literally found in every corner of our lives. Set aside for a moment all of the things that you think that you can accomplish. Set aside for a moment all of the dreams, longings, desires, your sense of self, and honestly examine your frail existence. I mean, heck, I have to sleep 1/3 of every single day. I can translate entire passages from the Greek into English, yet I fail miserably at “doing the word.” I could eloquently nuance the meaning and definition of self-giving love as found in scripture, yet I fail to patiently serve my wife. I’m weak.
I can’t change people’s hearts. I can’t cause transformation in a community. I can’t create a movement of discipleship. I can’t even discipline away my own sin, how could I ever imagine that in my strength I could show others the way?
I had the great opportunity to Skype with a friend who reminded me of this very truth: I am merely a beggar telling other beggars where they can find cold water. He challenged me, “lead from your weakness.” The need to constantly prove our capability and experience is anti-gospel. We may proclaim the gospel, but how we proclaim it may contradict the very message we proclaim.
When the gospel takes root in our hearts and lives, it is not our strength, or capability, or experience that defines us. No, it is our weakness that defines us; it is our need that defines us. The gospel message, the sweeping melody of all of scripture, reminds us that it was in the midst of our frailty and weakness that God rescued us. God didn’t rescue me because I am experienced. He didn’t rescue me because I’m capable. He didn’t rescue me because people like me. God rescued me out of His own love and grace for a wretched, broken, empty man like me. Each of us must remember, daily, that our capability, strength, meaning, and power are found in Him.
And it is God, not Justin or Jenny, who will accomplish His perfect plan in Guatemala. We just get to be the empty vessels that He fills.