I remember what seemed to be my last moments of weakness. That does not mean I am not weak and that I do not have moments of weakness now, it simply means I do not or in some sense will not, allow those moments to do their work in my life.
The circumstances were fairly basic. I had been pastoring a church in Sacramento for a little over a year. One day, I came home to find my wife and son had left me. No note, no message, just gone. The months that followed ultimately resulted in our divorce. No one was going to do that to me and get away with it. The church I was ministering to voted unanimously to keep me on and help me through this time. But I refused. I was hurt, humiliated, and basically mad. Mad at God and wanted nothing to do with life as a minister. So I resigned.
A few months after that, there was little doubt that I was sinking fast. I knew if I did not do something, I would drown. So I went to the seminary I was attending to re-enroll – to place myself in what I thought was a safe and nurturing environment. They refused, saying I must wait a year and demonstrate contrition and remorse. It was like a kick in the stomach. The knot at the end of my rope had been untied and fell hopelessly into nothingness.
Once I gained my composure, I decided I would not let anyone do that to me again. So I pursued what I called my “Clint Eastwood” life. A “dirty Harry” mentality that built walls all around my heart. A life that would not let anyone in and I pulled out my 44 magnum, “The most powerful handgun in the world…”, anytime anyone tried. My motto was his motto, “Go ahead punk, make my day!”
May I say now, with great shame, I left plenty of dead bodies in my wake. I refused to be weak or show weakness. I resisted vulnerability and dependency on God. I was going to be my own man! A man’s man!
How foolish. Nevertheless, there are still remnants of that persona that haunt me today. It is often difficult for me to identify with Paul’s words, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I prefer to be strong and made stronger. Again I say, “How foolish!”
I am hesitant to say all of this may be my “throne in the flesh.” However it may be exactly that. Satan uses it to slap me around and shove it in my face saying, “What a pitiful Christian you are.” Indeed, he may be right. But I have one who lives inside of me that is greater than he. One that will pour out his grace and help me to be transformed in my mind and heart, to be conformed to his image – not “dirty Harry’s.”
Father Spirit, continue to do a work in me that only you can do. Let me learn that weakness – weakness in Christ, provides true strength for living.