And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Today we will look at another angle of vulnerability – the willingness to truly not be ashamed of our weakness. This is what is often thought of as vulnerability. The willingness to share your own weaknesses – to not build up a wall of pretend around yourself.
But this is truly tricky business, and I’d like to point out the big things that I think we so often mess up when we are trying to do this. First of all, this passage makes clear the point of glorying in your infirmities. So that the power of Christ may rest upon you. In other words, so that you may no longer be infirm. This is not a static situation. Our weakness is perfect for His strength. But that means that it is no longer weakness. So the Christian does not glory in the weakness all by itself – but we are free to glory in our weakness in the context of His strength.
Lets imagine a little vulnerability testing ground – a few ladies gathered around a table somewhere. What often happens is that one woman hauls out her pet sin and slaps it on the table right on top of the coffee cake. The other women may jump, whispering among themselves to cross her off the guest list. They may look away with tears in their eyes, they may check to make sure that their own little nasty is safely squirreled away still, or they may say, “I’m so glad you brought this up – I have my own bathtub hairball in my purse right here that I have been wanting to bring out.”
What I would like to make clear is that none of these reactions are Christian, but all of them are common. We can be so thrown off by this kind of sin surprise party that we scramble around and end up completely confused. We are so afraid of saying something that might be construed as self-righteous, or proud. We are afraid of looking like maybe we sinned that way once too, we are afraid to have everyone laughing at us and saying, “You always think you have the answers!”
Now this is something that I hate more than a lot of things. I do not think that I have all the answers in my private little brain, and neither should you. But hello. WE have all the answers that we can ever need. Sin can be confessed. We can be forgiven. The righteousness of Christ has been applied to us. There is no situation so tangled that God cannot heal it. What I really want to know is where we all get off acting like this little struggle of ours – this little pet of having decided that we no longer love our husband, or the porn habit that is sneaking in, or the fact that we decided that we don’t like being a mom, or that we have gotten ourselves addicted to pain meds – where do we get off acting like these things are too big for God?
The honest truth is that there are times when we prefer our weakness to His strength. We lie to ourselves about the grandeur of our own sin. And once we have really started to believe it to be really important, we give it a little coming out party.
Christians must be comfortable with their own weakness, but only because in our weakness His strength is perfected. Our weakness is not our God. Other people’s weakness must not be our God either. We worship a God of strength. A God of righteousness. A God of healing. We are not to be comfortable with weakness for it’s own sake, in a state of not being transformed by anything. Our weakness is part of a wonderful story – a story about His strength. This means that Christians should never be comfortable with unconfessed sin, with treasured resentments, or with a proud spirit.
If sin was manure, a Christian can shovel like no one else. We are not to be the frilly city girl who runs away from the barn to get her smelling salts. But many people act like this is the only distinction – the person who is afraid of manure and the person who isn’t. But the truth is that there is a third, remarkably common way to behave around sin. This is the way of lying down in the manure to better make fun of the stupid girls who seem afraid of it. That is also not the way to address sin.
Now if you are the woman in your muck boots standing at the ready, when someone shows you a big pile of manure somewhere that they thought was secret, and probably immoveable, you are in an able position to help. This is what we do with this. Here, watch. Try this. Shovel. Did you know what God does with this?! Do you know the story of how our horrible messes are part of the glory of His strength? Stand up! Let go of it! Let His strength transform your weakness. Let the power of Christ rest upon you.
Being vulnerable and willing to help your friends means being willing to help your friends deal with their problems. It is not about sitting around and unveiling sins to each other, because what possible good could that do any of us? We are Christians. We are willing to labor alongside each other in the fight against sin. We have work to do.