Unwanted Lessons

“Ain’t nobody got time for that!” was one of the thoughts going through my mind.

Spraining my ankle was not in my plan the other night. Instead, I was hoping to work off some calories playing racquetball with my son and maybe slip in a quick set on some weights. One point into the first game, I take a step that sent shearing pain through my leg, resulting in icing, wrapping, elevating, medicating, Doctoring, X-raying, and hobbling around for the last week. Actually, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” has echoed consistently through my mind the last few days. Thankfully, no fractures, the tissue isn’t torn, and outside of a couple of steps putting too much weight on it too early, I’m tracking toward a quick recovery. And it has given me time to learn an unwanted lesson.

I hate being weak. I don’t naturally like being dependent on others. It humbles me more than I want to be, and keeps me on the receiving side of things when I would prefer to be on the giving side. What’s that? “Pride” you say? Uh, “Yes” is my answer. So the embracing of my weakness, my inabilities, my limitations, and my need for help, physically and in other ways is a humbling lesson, unwanted though it may be, but totally needed. The enticing lure of having power is a tension that we all have, and it has been to the detriment of many who otherwise would have been wise to embrace their weakness.

We’ve heard the phrase “power corrupts”, and we see it played out around us in politics, businesses, HOA boards, sports teams, and, sadly, even in churches. Someone who was such a great fit for a certain position gets radically transformed into something terribly different once they get a taste of power. You would think it wouldn’t happen in the church, you would hope it wouldn’t, but it does. I’ve seen it in elder meetings, leadership retreats, staff meetings, Bible studies, missions teams, pot luck dinners, small groups, and the pulpit. And lest you think I’m just pointing fingers, I’ve not only seen it, I’ve also, sadly, contributed to it through the years.

Henri Nouwan writes of this in his book In the Name of Jesus. He says: “One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power – political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power – even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to his divine power but emptied himself and became as we are. The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all. We keep hearing from others, as well as saying to ourselves, that having power – provided it is used in the service of God and your fellow human beings – is a good thing. With this rationalization, crusades took place; inquisitions were organized; Indians were enslaved; positions of great influence were desired; episcopal palaces, splendid cathedrals, and opulent seminaries were built; and much moral manipulation of conscience was engaged in. Every time we see a major crisis in the history of the church, such as the Great Schism of the eleventh century, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, or the immense secularization of the twentieth century we always see that a major cause of rupture is the power exercised by those who claim to be followers of the poor and powerless Jesus.”

When we were in the early stages of planting a church, it amazed me how tempting it was to want to make something happen in my time, in my way, and quite frankly, in my strength. I was so thankful to be part of a family of churches that readily admitted their weakness, humbly submitted to one another, and leaned in towards the communities around them, not to offer some shiny and fake representation of Jesus (and there’s a lot of them out there), but rather as a family of servant missionaries that are there to declare and display, imperfectly so, the life, the healing, and the power that is found in Jesus. And the power of God is most clearly displayed in our weakness, not our strength. Paul said that God declared to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To which Paul concluded “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:9-10)

So, I’m learning to embrace my weaknesses, my brokenness, and my need, and in a lot more areas than just my ankle. I’m still learning how to love, to trust, to lead, to follow, to serve, and to live as a follower of Jesus in all of life. I’d love to say “lesson learned” and be done with it, but I’m thinking there will be extended lessons of grace, with more sessions to come. It’s best learned in community, in relationship, so we can display His strength together, and invite others into a life of continual discovery of His sufficient grace. So I’ll grab my crutches this week, and maybe get me a cold pop, and hobble alongside of some fellow hobblers, and learn the unwanted, but drastically needed lesson with them.

And quite frankly, I hope I always make time for that!

Click this link for something you ain’t got time for.