Many years ago a friend of mine was on a road trip and came through the city where I lived. He stopped at a gas station and called me from a pay phone (this was before cell phones). He wanted to see if I was around and asked if he could crash at my apartment for the night so we could catch up. I hadn’t seen him for awhile and was excited to hang out with him.
At the time of our visit I was engaged to be married and was staring at a huge transition and life change, and wrestled and with getting rid of my “baggage” before I made the leap. I didn’t get rid of all my baggage before I got married, but I did minimized it. Over time I went from a room full of luggage down to a over-stuffed carry-on. I was lighter and leaner but was and am still minimizing. I learned a valuable lesson during this time of introspection, counseling, mentorship, direction and confession. I learned how TO BE STRONGER!
Do you want to be stronger? Do you desire to take control of your life? Do you desire to stop letting the past determine your future? Are you ready to win at life? Are you ready to “take life by the horns?”
My friend had recently finished college, was a working professional and was dating a girl he wanted to marry. On the outside he seemed fine, and his life plan was coming together. Yet as we talked something seemed missing. Something wasn’t right. Over and over in our conversation he said, “If I was only stronger.” He lamented over some of the issues (baggage) in his life, and said, “I know I can fix this.” After some time I looked at him squarely
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.
“Huh, what do you mean?”
“ I mean, why are you asking to be stronger?” I asked. “You are asking for the wrong thing and you are praying the wrong prayer.” He looked at me, surprised. I waited to give him time to retort, but he just looked at me with total confusion. So I explained what it means to Be STRONG.
To be strong means to be weak. There, I said it! I know, It sounds weird, right? Who wants to be weak? No one does, right? Before you check out; let me explain!
St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “. . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.” In this scripture passage we see a shift in perspective. A paradox is at play. How can weakness and strength go together? Is it possible that to be weak and strong is one and the same? St. Paul understood human nature very well. He encountered much suffering and pain, as well as joy in his life. Paul was human just like you and me. Paul understood that life is difficult. He knew that “adulting” is hard. Yet, Paul figured out the great mystery of being STRONG.
St. Paul echoed the words of the greatest Teacher, Jesus, who said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41) Jesus came to the world to shift our perspective, to change our hearts and to renew our minds; understanding full well that “self-reliance” is not the way we are created to live.
So what does it mean to be STRONG?
To be Strong means to let go of control:
I’m sure you know the feeling of holding onto something really tight. I grew up water skiing. It’s essential to hold on tight to the ski rope; if not the boat will yank it out of your hand. Skiing is fun, but short lived. Soon after skiing around a lake, you’re exhausted and you have to let go of the rope. Life is the same way. When we grab on too tight we are worn out before long. When we take control over our life, pretend we are strong and believe we can fix everything, we become fatigued. I often come in contact with people who are in total control of their lives; however, they are exhausted and overwhelmed. They pretend to have it all together, but they really don’t.
I lived life this way many times; and it worked for a while; but in time, without fail, I crashed. St. Paul reminded us of Jesus’’ words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) Paul meant that God is enough for us; that His Grace completes us. When we grab control of our lives, it is difficult for Grace (God’s presence) to move in our lives. Control is an exit ramp for Grace to move out of our lives.
When we let go of control God can take over. Control is either / or not both / and! We either have control or God does.
To be strong means to admit weakness:
Have you ever admitted you were wrong? Have you ever come clean and admitted you cannot do something or are not good at something? Admitting we fall short is difficult, but as soon as we do, we feel relief.
I remember taking on a house project. There were some things I could do, but the more I got into it the more I uncovered other issues. I can do this, I thought in the beginning; yet, deep down I knew I didn’t have the expertise to do it well. I finally had to admit that I was in over my head. Relief set in. I watched the contractor do the work and felt great; almost as great as I felt when I saw the finished project. This is true when we admit that we are weak, that we have weaknesses. St. Paul continued, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor 12:9) Paul admitted his weaknesses, knowing that his admission allowed God to work in his life. When we do this; we can let go and watch God do the work for us and in us.
To be strong means to surrender:
No one likes to quit or give up. Why should we ever wave the white flag? To surrender does not mean you lose or give up. Surrender is winning!
We all have imperfections. Our bodies are imperfect. Our hearts are broken. Our soul is wounded from sin. Yet, in all of our imperfections we can have freedom. How?
Our Bodies: We certainly can’t have freedom in fixing our imperfect bodies. Surely, we need to take care of our bodies and live a healthy life; but, for all of us, no matter how well we eat and work out, our bodies will fail one day. Our bodies will surrender to the reality of their imperfections.
Our hearts: No matter how much we try to protect our feelings; life is hard and our hearts will be broken. Our hearts long to be healed.
Our Souls: We are sinners and no matter what we do, our souls have the look of sin. We can repent, go to confession and be renewed; but we all know that our souls long for more. We want freedom.
Our bodies long to be satisfied. Our heart longs to be healed. And our souls desire forgiveness and renewal. St. Paul said, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults and hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) Paul understood that surrender is victory. Jesus taught us this with his life. Jesus surrendered his life; so that victory over sin would be ours for eternity. Our hope, our forgiveness, our healing, our freedom is found in uniting with the surrender of Christ. When we surrender, we allow Christ’s victory to lay claim over our lives. He wins, we win. Victory is ours in Christ. You and I have victory in Christ when we let go, admit and surrender our hearts to Christ!
Allow God to shift your perspective, change your heart and renew your mind. Let him weed out self-reliance; and let Grace move in your life. He’s strong!