Weakness and Giftedness
Posted on February 10, 2014
I’ve been in a season of forgetfulness lately. It started about six months ago, which happened to coincide with a major transition in my life. Since then, It’s been really difficult for me to keep thoughts in my head or to remember anything of significance. I used to pride myself in my ability to remember word for word whole conversations I would have. Now I’m lucky to remember names and to recall titles of books I’m reading.
As I’ve been processing my new reality with mentors, it seems that all this might be related to this strange thing called grief, this feeling of living like my brain is submerged in water and like I can’t seem to get air. Most of the time I can accept that I don’t have a memory like I once did. Other times I feel intense fear connected to whether I’ll ever recover and feel normal again.
Ironically, during these months of feeling so weak and not like myself, I’ve also been studying in my seminary course work the theme of giftedness as it relates to our relationship with God. How do we evaluate our giftedness and learn to lead out of who God uniquely created us to be? It’s been such a fascinating conversation to have with other Christian leaders as we all wrestle with what this looks like in our context. How do we develop people we mentor in the area of giftedness, whether their spiritual gifts, natural abilities, or unique skills? How do we help people step into these areas and embrace them for his mission?
But, yes, all of this is terribly ironic considering how not gifted I currently feel as I struggle with the Lord in prayer over why I can’t remember daily details of my life.
This has led me to wonder then, just how should we as believers process our weaknesses and their usefulness in God’s mission? Could our weaknesses potentially be a part of our gifts too? If it is true what the apostle Paul says about how he boasts all the more in his weakness because in it Christ is shown as strong, could there be something more to a reflection on this mystery of weakness in our life?
How should we as believers process our weaknesses and their usefulness in God’s mission?
Even when we participate in the Eucharist, it seems that Jesus points us to his weakness, his body broken and his blood spilt for us. The imagery in the Sciptures of a lamb led to the slaughter is used to fortell of his death for the rescue of humanity. These aren’t the only images we’re given, but they do make up part of the whole picture painted for us of who Christ is. He is both the lion and the slain lamb. We’re told in Isaiah that it is by his wounds we are actually healed.
And what about our own woundedness and ways that God might want to use our deepest hurts as gifts to nourish and minister to the wounded around us?
I recently listened to an interview of Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries, a beautiful organization that ministers among gang members in Los Angeles. In the interview he shared about a former gang member who was telling his testimony of learning how to embrace his wounds for the sake of others. Listen here:
(Listen to full episode of “On Being” here)
I love the line in this where he says, “I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anyone to see them. But now, my wounds are my friends. I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my wounds. How can I help the wounded, if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”
How profound a thought that maybe part of the gifts that we offer to the work of the kingdom is our weaknesses and wounds where Christ has revealed himself as the strong healer. Maybe it is through these broken areas of our lives that God wants to reflect to the world the image of our redeemer who makes all things new. Henri Nouwen talks about how our wounds “allow us to enter into a deep solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters” and that this becomes our gift. What a painful yet significant truth. I want to be the kind of person who not only gives my strengths but also gives my weaknesses and my wounds for use in God’s kingdom, helping me enter into solidarity with others who are hurting too.
I still wish I could just think straight and keep writing away here in this space. But most days that isn’t my story. So for now, as I feel weak and wounded, I will offer it all back to Christ as my gifts I have to share with others at his table. May that be true of all of us that swim in this culture that tells us our identity is primarily wrapped up in our strengths. I think the kingdom of God often prophetically speaks a different narrative. We are beloved apart from what we know or do for him. And today I am thankful for this simple gift.
image credit: Niharb