Weak Things

Sometimes I hate being a Christian. I grew up on Tarzan, Robin Hood, and Zorro, men of action stories. Bad guys were, well, bad and always got what is coming to them. Heroes did stuff and were men of few words. They let their fists, swords, or guns do the talking. Those were the days before Clint Eastwood learned to act, but he could tell punks, “Make my day!”

Today most the punks I face down are, to be honest, demons and sin. And even worse, all my weapons are weak things. No swords, guns, or hand grenades. I have, reluctantly, embraced the weak things God offers. Here are a few of them.

Prayer: I pray regularly, and fervently, but it feels weak. Most my prayers are for those tangled and mired in sin. Some prayers are for drug addicts I know. I don’t fully understand how my agonized prayers intersect with the free-will of those for whom I pray, but I pray. I do not feel like a “prayer warrior”—more like a praying beggar. I do some of that taking authority and standing-on-the-promises kind of praying, but I often feel as if I am acting a part.

Kneeling: I need all the help I can get, and kneeling helps me. Perhaps if I were more spiritual, I wouldn’t need the help. Kneeling humbles me. Although a weak thing with no magic, bending my body towards God helps my soul bend. This weak thing is a weapon against pride and self-reliance. Even though it is the ultimate picture of weakness, kneeling has some power.

Fasting: I do not do this well even though I have done it often. I can not report any spiritual breakthrough ever happening while fasting or because of fasting. I get hungry and irritable. And my prayers while fasting are no more energized than any other time. But I give my hunger to God as a prayer and leave it in his hands. I trust Him, but do not find fasting a source of spiritual power. That may be okay, since it isn’t about me.

Kindness: Sometimes I fight for those I love with kindness. In my experience, kindness has not changed hearts or stopped destructive impulses in others. I really have no victory stories regarding kindness. But small acts of kindness or generosity feel like lighting a match in the darkness, even when I get burned.

Perseverance: This is just putting one foot in front of another. It’s praying again, giving again, loving again. It is outlasting evil. Scripture often calls this being steadfast. It isn’t flashy. I am old enough to value this more than I once did. My heart has been broken when believers, even respected leaders, give up, plunge into sin, or just walk away from God. I have also experienced the solid encouragement of those who have walked faithfully with God over the years.

Patience: Ugh. So often this feels like letting others use you. It often means not standing up for your rights. Patience often requires that I bite my tongue. It also means doing another weak thing—waiting upon the Lord. Waiting is not a “man of action” thing. It means resisting the urge to jump into other people’s lives and fix things. Ugh.

Blessing: I would rather smack than bless those who curse me. But Jesus says to bless them. My blessings don’t seem to change them or help them. But what do I know? To quote Hamlet, “words, words, words.” Here in the west we think words wield no power. This is not the biblical view. So I bless, and ask God to bless. For what it’s worth.

Thanksgiving: Complaining has more bite. Counting your blessings seems so trite. But I have embraced thanksgiving as a discipline. It is salve for my blind eyes. It helps me see the goodness of life and the goodness of God. It keeps me from the stupid sins of greed, envy, and selfish ambition. Thanksgiving may not slay giants, but it shuts my complaining mouth.

Scripture: God’s Word has helped. Each morning I pull out two 3×5 cards and write down a verse for the day. Some are promises, others exhortations. Teckla and I read them over, maybe talk a little about them, and then stuff them in our pocket. Nothing magic happens. The card is no talisman. By the end of the day, the cards are bent and crumpled. We now have a couple fat stacks of worn cards rubber-banded together. It seems like a weak little thing to do, but it has carried us through some dark days.

Love: Paul says, “Love never fails.” Okay. But what is it that love never fails at? Did God’s love fail to bring Israel to repentance? It seems so. Could my love fail to bring all my sons to salvation? I think so. Whether one believes in predestination or not, it seems there is no guarantee that our love and prayers will move God to save our children. Love that can’t save those we love seems like a weak thing. But I still embrace love as the best thing, the most powerful thing I have in my collection of weak things. Maybe only eternity will reveal how strong it is.

Me: By now you have probably figured out that the only truly weak thing in this list is me. It is a sign of my spiritual weakness and immaturity that all these things seem weak to me. I possess no deep revelation of how powerful prayer can be or of how it is that love never fails. I think too much like the world and lack the spiritual eyes to see how powerful the “weak things” of God really are. But I am praying for that to change.

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About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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