Reading the Message translation of II Cor. 12, Paul wrote that he was, “given the gift of a handicap” to keep him “in constant touch with [his] limitations” (v. 7). The traditional translation is “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul begged to have it removed. But God told him, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (v. 8). What Paul says next has been medicine for my soul at this new juncture of my journey.
“Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size……I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become” (v. 9-10).
Judy and I have been transitioning to a new living space in our senior apartment, getting acquainted with people both in our building, as well as in our church community (Good Shepherd Lutheran Free Church). Judy has been navigating the adjustment better then yours truly. I am honest in telling my bride, “I am above water, but I sense the miry depths below. I don’t want to sink.” David prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold……Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me” (Ps. 69:1-2, 14, 15). My wife is my inspiring encourager in keeping my eyes of Jesus.
Men we all have our handicaps or “thorns in the flesh.” This transitioning period has exposed cracks in the relational foundations of my life story. I can’t put it into words, but newly emerging implicit memories going back to my infant years, have brought up deep feelings of abandonment and insecurity. At present, I know intellectually that my life is secure, but just below the surface I feel the “mire” of abandonment and the lack of basic trust.
I don’t like being affected by feelings of fear, vulnerability and insecurity. Little did I realize the cracks that would be exposed during this transitional time in my life. I am learning to stand in my wounds, while holding them before the Lord. Here is some of what I am learning from this humbling experience. First, learning to accept thankfully my “gift of a handicap.” It keeps me, “in constant touch with my limitations.” I have had to confess the ugly sin of self-pity.
Secondly, I need to accept my handicaps, by appreciating them as a gift. The NIV reads, “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.” It takes humility and vulnerability. It’s difficult to share my weaknesses with my wife.
Thirdly, realize that Christ’s strength enters into my weakness. I have no idea how that happens. It is the work of the Spirit in my foundations.
Fourthly, I accept Paul’s testimony, “the weaker I get the stronger I become.” I know I can’t repair my foundations. As Jesus repairs my foundations I become stronger.