Weakness has never been en vogue.
They don’t hand out gold medals for deadlifting the least weight. I’ve never seen a World’s Weakest Man competition get televised. You don’t see a lot of Hallmark cards congratulating people on how weak they’re being through life’s hard times.
Everyone wants to be better, hotter, sexier, richer, stronger. Or at least appear as though they are.
Everybody is flexing.
Not just physically. Emotionally.
In a purely physical sense, I’ve never been a bodybuilder (shocking, I know), but I’ve always prided (prode?) myself on being in great shape. It’s disheartening to watch your muscles wither away as you lie in bed for months, but this musculoskeletal weakness is one that I know I can overcome. A mere seven months from now, and I’ll most likely be cleared to hit the gym again. Look out.
In an emotional sense, though, the weakness I feel inside is proving a little tougher to overcome.
My life is an ill-fated shopping trip. One of those outings in which you enter a store or head to Amazon with the intent of buying gifts for other people, but come away with a bunch of stuff for yourself, instead. I try to give and serve, and end up doing it only when it’s convenient for me. I try to love others, but I’m too weak, too broken to do it unselfishly, expecting nothing in return. I try to follow God, but I’m too weak to get things right, and I mess up time and time again. My life is full of good intentions, which, as the adage goes, are only useful for paving hellbound roads. Right now, I lack motivation, I need discipline, I doubt my own abilities, and I’m constantly surprised at just how selfish I am and how incapable I am of doing anything about it.
Thankfully, I am not alone. Everyone, I believe, wants everyone else to think that they have it together, and everyone is desperately afraid of what would happen if someone found out that they didn’t. Found out that they were lonely. In pain. Weak.
In this picture perfect plastic place we live in, where the life we present to the world is more important than the life we actually live, “it’s a real hard thing to show your weakness,” in the words of Jennifer Knapp. Even our best attempts at being genuine, candid, and honest often come across as rather contrived.
A strangely beautiful thing takes place, though, when we actually let our weakness be known. A peculiarly magnificent juxtaposition.
I am weak. Everyone is weak. It’s only when someone breaks down the walls they have worked so hard to build, and admits his or her own failings and fragility, that others find the strength to do so as well. As poet Criss Jami puts it, “To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
In other words, weakness takes strength, and it imparts strength as well.
In weakness, real life begins.
Throughout human history, we have tried to suppress the feeble humanity that is coded into our very DNA. We build castles. Wage wars. Erect pyramids. Walk on the moon. Get calf implants. We cram a lifetime of achievements into our evanescent existence, and then we die. Turn to dust. Are forgotten.
Death comes surely for each and every person, king and cripple alike. Mansions and shanties crumble alike. The biggest tombstone doesn’t buy you a single additional day above the ground beneath it.
In the midst of all our would-be bravado and strutting displays of peacock feathers, along comes a God who turns logic on its head. Who says the weak are the strong. Who insists it’s not our strength, but our weakness, that allows him to make his strength known.
This is the Gospel. We will never be strong enough. Good enough. Lovable enough. And that’s the point. Grace, and the death of a Savior, would be rendered meaningless if there was any way that we could do it, earn it, on our own.
We serve a God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.
“Let me be made weak so I’ll know the strength of the one who’s strong,” Steven Curtis Chapman prays.
If that isn’t encouragement enough, think about the fact that God knows our weakness firsthand. Hebrews tells us that he doesn’t just sympathize with our weakness out of celestial pity, but empathizes, because he has been there. Himself. The God of the universe became a weak, powerless, crying baby. A man of sorrows. A stumbling criminal too weak to carry his own cross.
Is it any wonder that he chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise? The weak things of the world to shame the strong?
So give up already. Stop pretending like you have it all together. Stop trying to fool those around you. Fool yourself. Fool God. “If there’s one thing I know, in this life we are beggars all,” Thrice proclaims.
Let your guard down. Just once. Try it; I dare you. If those in your life can’t handle your weakness, your vulnerability, your shortcomings, perhaps it’s time for some new friends. If they can, congratulations. You just took one step towards real, messy, raw, human relationship.
Give up on trying to convince God you’re strong, too. He already knows the weakness that’s inside, and longs to give you the same strength, the same power that raised his Son back to life. I don’t know where you’ll find any stronger strength than that.
Finally, take a long look inside. Be honest with yourself about who you see in the mirror of your heart. If all you see is a strong, capable, perfect individual, I suggest that perhaps you’re not looking hard enough.
We are all weak.
And that’s the point.