I get so frustrated sometimes. That I’m not smarter, more knowledgeable, funnier, even. That I’m not more eloquent. That I’m not a better writer. That when I want the right words I never have them. That when I want to do the right thing, I never seem to know what that is.
The world would tell me there is a solution to these shortcomings. I could study more, read more. I could go to seminars and workshops for all of these things. I could become better at all of these things.
Jesus has a different answer: “When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honour.” (James 4:10)
I am not demonizing the pursuit of knowledge, the desire to hone one’s craft. These are admirable quests if they are done from a place of humility. But they certainly are not the answer, and should not be our highest goal.
Our kitchen drain was clogged last week. For the entire day there sat a large pool of grimy water in the sink. Dirty dishes covered the counter, one splattered with raw chicken pieces leftover from the meatballs I had just placed in the oven. Every time I needed to wash my hands I had to go to the bathroom sink which was draining just fine. But this was annoyingly inconvenient.
When my husband arrived home from work I looked at him with pleading eyes, “Drano?!”
He had forgotten.
“I think I can unclog it,” he says. Always a problem-solver, one of the things I love most about him. He removes his jacket, and squats down on the floor, starts examining the pipes under the sink. My son and I watch as his dad fiddles around with a few things. He twists something loose and we stare with horror as he removes the large mound of what looks like mud and an entire head of hair from the pipe. He then quickly grabs a large stainless steel bowl to catch the torrents of brown water now flowing through. “Ewwww!” the three of us exclaim together. One bowl fills and another is put in its place, and finally the sink and pipe are emptied. The tap is turned on for a test, and the water flows through smooth and clean once again.
The main thing I am forgetting when I am irritated by my flaws is this: it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus. And He certainly has the power to do whatever He wants with this less than brain, this less than personality of mine. His power works best in weakness.
The best thing I can do is get out of the way.
If I don’t get out of the way, I am allowing a lot of gunk and filth to remain, which directly block God’s light and prevent His power from working through me. My job is to be aware of the dirt – my pride, my insecurity, my envy, my jealousy – and surrender it to him. He will take it. His blood will wash it far away. And then I can be confident in Him. Trusting that He will make a way for His goodness to flow through me.
The world urges us to define ourselves by our ambition, our accomplishments, our status. The world says that a strong person is one that is loud, outspoken, bossy. The world equates these attributes with greatness, confidence and power. Fake it ’til you make it, they tell us. If you act bold, people will believe you and treat you as such.
In his book The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes that “The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense. There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ…The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”
In Christ, all masks are torn off, all false personas are ripped to shreds. So that He will be the One that shines. God has chosen us – me and you – to be His Holy receptacles; we hold His love, His light, His spirit within us. We are the temple, now. But if we can’t get out of the way, how will the One who is everything ever be made known through us? We will become a clogged pipe, no longer of use, until we let Jesus – the Perfect Plumber – make a way. In Him we become like Him, humble and gentle at heart.
Does this mean we don’t have confidence? Absolutely not. For now we know where our confidence erupts from. We have humbled ourselves before the Source. A.W. Tozer so clearly explains that “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. In himself nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.”
Just recently I came across one of the wisest things I’ve ever written (which doesn’t sound very humble, but stay with me). It was from an old journal, around the time I had become a new mom. I was struggling with pride and anger, anxiety and insecurity, struggling to find peace with my new role as a parent. I wrote “Andrea, you’ll never be as amazing as you think, or hoped you would be. You are who you are, nothing more nothing less. And that is just fine. To be just that. So be who you are. Don’t know that you’re more, don’t know that you’re less. Just know who you are and that will be fine.”
Fast forward four years and I can see how I was missing the main piece to this puzzle – that Jesus is the one who fulfills my identity. Though I saw a lack in myself when I wrote this particular journal entry, I was ignoring the answer – my deep and desperate need for Him. I wasn’t yet recognizing that though I am weak, He is strong, and that this truth is my great conclusion. The one I was searching for.
But now I see. And this understanding has given me a whole new approach to the way I conduct myself. I need not fear that I am not enough, for whatever I do in the name of Love I know He will supplement with His power. I need not feel anxious about my level of skill, or lack thereof, for when I provide the quantity of work I know He will take care of the quality. I surrender my will to His. His is always better anyhow.
And I cannot express my final point any clearer than Paul himself:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)