she is limited.
Recently, I’ve encountered the reality that I am not perfect.
My physical body is dying and will return to dust. I have stretch marks, wrinkles and cellulite. My memory is splotchy, and my intellect is narrow. I forget my mom’s birthday every year, and it took me 3 semesters to pass college calculus. My gifts and talents are few. I am not the best at anything. Teach me a rhythmic dance, and laugh. My personality is it’s own. I feel deeply and process slowly. Pinch me, and I’ll probably cry. Ask me to solve a problem efficiently, and breed panic. My time is running out. I can’t do it all. There will be goals unmet and dreams unlived. I won’t be an astronaut, have thirteen kids or climb Mt. Everest. My work is hard. It remains thorns and thistles, and I am unfulfilled. Even if I got paid to bask beneath the sun on a tropical island, I would still find a way to complain. My material possessions will be destroyed. My iPhone and iPad will soon be outdated, and eventually, those Anthropologie dresses will be eaten by moths or stolen. My relationships are infected, every single one of them. I hurt people. People hurt me. My understanding is confused. I don’t get it. Who God really is is beyond my comprehension.
I am limited.
I am not God.
And it kinda sucks.
As I come to embrace these limitations, I am grieved. I suffer loss. I experience death. Real death.
in her weakness.
So to keep her from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given her in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass her, to keep her from becoming conceited. Three times she pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave her. But he said to her, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore she will boast all the more gladly of her weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon her. For the sake of Christ, then, she is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when she is weak, then she is strong. [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
That damn thorn. It’s pestering lies from my enemy. The way that it threateningly stalks. The sting, suffocation and irritation at the slightest bump, twist or turn. What it kills. Where it limits. How it confuses. It’s sensitivity to infection. It’s decieving whispers. It’s ability to pierce my side in the midst of a dead sprint, leaving me stumbling, keeling over and falling to my knees. Owwwieee. GET IT OUT!!! “Please, Father, wouldn’t you take it from me? Don’t you see how it disables me? It tears away at me. It rips at my side. I hate it! I long to be rid of it. Can you numb it? Will you remove it? Pleeease! I beg of you!”
“Beloved daughter, I am enough for you. For through this thorn, you have come to me, you have heard me, you know me and you follow me. In your desperation, you have tasted and seen that I am good. In your disability, I have carried you. In your pain, you seek me, and you find me. In it’s lies, you search for truth. In it’s attack, you run to refuge in my arms. In your limits, I am limitless. In your destruction, I will restore. Darling daughter, through this thorn I have captivated you. I have wooed you into the reality of my loving kindness. Here, where you are nothing, where you are limited, where you need, is where I am perfected, and it’s where my grace and power are perfecting my image in you. Trust me. Follow me. I am sovereign, and I love you.”
she is wooed.
Therefore, behold, I will allure her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and maker the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. [Hosea 2:14-15]
The wilderness is a place of exile. It is where I meet weakness. It is where I am limited. It is death. It is the human way of life. It’s always a test, and it’s always confusing, but it’s a good place to be. In the desert is where God woos me to Himself. I don’t merely survive when weak, but it is in my weakness, in the desert, where I flourish. In my limitations, I learn to let go of my little kingdoms and discover a nobler King than myself. I die to my false self that could never enter the kingdom of God. Here, in death, dependence on God is essential and independence from Him as absolutely lethal. I own emptiness here, and encounter the inability of created things to satisfy. Here, is where the bonds of captivity are stripped, and the hope for deliverance is restored. In this desperation is where God reveals Himself as trustworthy, sovereign and worth following.
from death to life.
Deep in the desert, where limitations are revealed, weakness is encountered and death is real, I am prompted to trust the living God. I look to Jesus on the Mount of Olives as He faced the reality of death, proclaiming, ‘Father, not my will, but yours, be done.’ What followed this surrender to the Father was grief, suffering, betrayal, abandonment, mockery, accusation, striping, bruising, beating, piercing and ultimately death. Real death. Death that I’ll never encounter. Death that I was saved from, because Jesus died this death for me. But this death wasn’t the end. The truth is, He rose from the grave, and He is alive!
In His death, He rose again, and in His resurrection, there is hope. But resurrection requires death. Real death. Where there is death, there is resurrection. And where there is resurrection, there is transformation and restoration. Therefore, in my weakness, in limitations and in death, there is hope. I delight in my dying and rejoice in my weaknesses, because here, He brings me to life. Here, His power is perfecting me.
For, in her weakness, she is strong.
O Spirit of God
Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
perplexed and knowing not what to do,
slandered and persecuted,
made to feel the weight of the cross,
help me, I pray thee.
If thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged,
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk the way of thy commandments.
Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy, holy person;
Help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step,
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee,
with the music of heaven,
And make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee.
I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.
Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity;
Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee..
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.
(p. 103) Valley of Vision
A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions