when you are weak

Have you read that verse in the bible, "When you are weak, then you are strong"? [2 Corinthians 12:10]
What about the one right before that: "For my power is made perfect in weakness."


We are a weak people, us humans that roam around on this earth. And I don't know about you, but there are certain times in my life when I feel particularly weak. 

Which reminds me of a time I was foolish enough [wise enough?] to pray for weakness. 

It was the fall of 2005. I was just getting ready to start my sophomore year in college. I had given up on the idea of transferring to be with Brent. I had given up on the idea of ever growing accustomed to the fierce wind and bitter cold of northwest Iowa. And I had given up on the idea of being a "perfect Christian." I wanted God to work in me.

So while laying on the bottom bunk on top of my lime green comforter, I opened a notebook and scrawled across its lined pages: Lord, use me until I'm empty, then fill me to overflowing. 

I was asking to be emptied.
I was asking to be made weak.

I was reminded of this youthful prayer the other day when I read in my Jesus Calling devotional: Come to me when you are weak and weary… I do not despise your weakness, My child. Actually, it draws me closer to you… Accept yourself in your weariness. 

Time and time again the bible not only reminds us that we are weak, but it reminds us that in that state of weakness, Christ's power is more evident to and through us.

You know what happened after that scribbled prayer when I was not yet 20?
I dove in to learning opportunities and service projects and real community and authentic friendships and led a bible study. God began shaping me and leading me-- kneading me into more and more of who He had originally created me to be. Life was very full.

And about two months after that prayer, in the same bottom bunk, I awoke to a horribly sore throat, and a near inability to move, the likes of which I had never quite experienced. Minus some puffy eyelids and a little cold the previous weeks, I had felt fine. But that morning I called my best friend…whose room was literally right across the hall, a mere 10 steps from where I laid. She answered, confused. "Renae," I mumbled nearly incoherent. "Would you please come bring me some Ibuprofen? It's on my dresser." Before I had even finished my request she was standing in my room, hand on her hip, looking at me. She wasn't concerned; She thought I was being a pain.

Probably why she thought I was being a pain: This picture was taken the night before. 
This was about two/three weeks before I woke up with a sore throat and super weak. My sister laughed at me…from across the crowded cafeteria… when she first saw me. Seriously, did no one this was an early symptom?! You're welcome for sharing this with you. 
Quickly, though, she realized I was serious. I knew it was just strep. I knew I just needed antibiotics. It was a Sunday, so I had to go to the ER. I could barely make it to the elevator to take me down one flight. Then I could barely make it to my aunt's car. Then I sat in an uncomfortable chair in the waiting room until finally they swabbed my throat. "You don't have strep." At that point I figured I was still in my bed, dreaming, because I HAD to have strep. He continued, "I'm afraid it's probably mono." He drew blood. I went to my aunt's and fell asleep for five days. Seriously.

Eventually we figured out a way to get me back home to Missouri-- a friend of my aunt's was driving to Omaha where my dad would transfer me to his back seat and drive me the rest of the way. [To this day, if the couple that drove me to Omaha were to meet me on the street and say hello, I would have no idea who they are. I simply used their backseat to catch my drool as I slept and they transported me].

I spent the next month acquiescing at home. My professors were awesome and worked with me. My mom was awesome and nursed me. Brent was awesome and visited me. I remember at one point thinking I could probably manage going back. My mom said, "Okay, walk through what your day would look like with me."

"Well, I would roll out of bed, get dressed, and then…"

She interjected, "You'd have to walk down the hall to the bathroom."

"Yes, I'd have to walk to the bathroom. Then I'd leave my dorm and start walking across campus to my first class… Mom, I think I'm going to go lay back down." It wore me out just to think about it.

I eventually recovered.
I eventually returned to school [and used the "I had mono" excuse to go to bed early often. Okay, I still do. ]

But somewhere over the course of that crazy, debilitating time I remembered the prayer I had written. I remembered asking to be used until I was empty. I remembered asking to be made weak. And I had a lot of quiet moments, propped up in bed, to pray and study and pray and read and pray. And when I returned to campus I was not just physically healthier-- I was rejuvenated in some very real parts of my soul.

And though that semester made me graduate Magna Cum Laude instead of Summa [I just had to google if Summa was spelled with one or two M's, so maybe it was more than just that semester ;)], it taught me things that I still carry with me to this day.

It taught me the importance of quieting ourselves before God.
It taught me the beauty of stillness.

It taught me about what being empty feels like.
It taught me about weakness in a very tangible way.

It taught me that God hears our prayers.

He emptied me, like I had asked.
And then He filled me to overflowing in ways I could have never expected when I first wrote that prayer.

And so now when I feel weak-- spiritually, physically, emotionally-- I remember the beauty of it. I remember the truth of the scripture that I felt that year: When you are weak, then you are strong. 

And so today, as the wind blows and the rain taps on the windows, I will accept myself in my weariness. 

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1 comment:

Renae Heesch said...

You make me sound very mean in this post! And how do you remember that was the picture before you got mono? I know this was horrible for you, but I am so glad you came back to me!