I watched as my pastor bounced up and down with excitement while delivering the good news of the Gospel to us one Sunday morning, even as I questioned my own faith. My spiritual life felt dry and dreary. I sang the usual worship songs, but not with much enthusiasm. I listened to the sermon, but I wasn’t moved. Where had my excitement gone over the past several months? Where was my desire for Christ?
As I sat and listened to the Good News I panicked when it didn’t move me. Something had to be done. I longed for the closeness with Christ that I felt I had as recently as a few short months ago. I was weary of my parched-desert and decided that I had to find my way out. And so I began to scheme. I made a promise to myself that I would wake up the next (Monday) morning and get back into the Word. I pledged to read and pray and write. Surely this will fuel me. Surely this will change my spiritual posture. And then maybe I, too, could hop up and down as my pastor did, Christ flooding my heart.
My well-intentioned plans were thrown out the window when Monday morning slapped me in the face: arguing kids, a missing shoe, and a reluctant kindergartner who greeted the morning with, “I’m not going to school!” All I could think about was hurrying the kids out the door so I could get to the business of getting out of this spiritual desert—surely that would make me a better mom and wife. If I had joy in Christ, then I could have joy in raising my children…or so I believed.
As I pulled my car into the drop-off line at school, my kindergartner’s protest began to escalate. I could see that this would not be a battle easily won. Even my other children saw it; they were begging me to let them out of the car quickly because they could see the gathering clouds of the impending storm.
As the teacher opened the door of the car, cheerfully greeting my kids, our eyes met. Even she could see that this was going to be another one of those days. I stepped out of the car and wrestled my six-year-old onto the sidewalk. I managed to make it to the gate before being kicked in the shin and informed that I was hated in front of what seemed like the entire school. In pain and anger, I made it very clear to him that he was never to kick his mommy again. And like that, I had terrified an entire group of five- and six-year-olds who had formed a semi-circle around our wrestling match.
Then I did the unthinkable: I burst into tears.
I broke down not only in front of my son’s friends, but in front of all the parents and teachers that I had worked so hard all year to impress.
I just cried.
In my moment of weakness, I suddenly saw very clearly what God was doing. Even though my day began by quickly spiraling out of control, my spiritual sand dunes began to transform to look more and more like lush waterfalls. In all of my planning and effort to bring myself out of my desert, God was showing me something that I needed more: weakness. In midst of the Monday morning chaos, I saw Christ more active in my public weeping than I would have on a benign morning of quiet study and solitary prayer.
I did read my bible that morning. In fact, I couldn’t wait to read it. I needed it like someone dying of thirst, crawling across the desert, desperate for a cup of life-giving water. God used my weakness—not my strength—to bring me out of the desert. Had things gone as planned, I would have forged ahead believing it was up to me to find more faith and that it was up to me to manufacture some kind of excitement toward the gospel.
When we take it upon ourselves to work to get closer to Christ, like I did, we slip back into the false notion that gaining more faith is something that we can accomplish. There is no amount of list-making and effort-giving that will give us more of him. No. He wants us to throw away those lists for a simple reason: it’s not about what we do for God; it’s about what he has done for us. Faith is a gift that cannot be earned.
It is the times of chaos and the difficult days that force us to our knees. It is on our knees where we find grace. The humiliation of that Monday morning—a suffering that caused a death to my put-together self—was the avenue by which Jesus brought life to my parched soul. No work, no matter how good and indisputably right, can make us love Christ more.
It is good news that we remain his beloved whether we are having a respectable moment (calmly dealing with an angry child) or an appalling moment (yelling at that child in front of the whole school). The Good News causes us to stand in awe of him.
It is in our weakness that we are finally able to see how much we need his strength.
It is in our weakness that he calls out to us, drawing us to him for strength.
It is in our weakness that we find Christ.