Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, Josie and baby Jane

Sunday, September 5, 2010

“We’re Supposed to be Strong”

Camelback Mountain viewed from the north

(Sorry told with permission from the kids!)

One of the many benefits of living in Phoenix for this year of furlough is climbing the mountains which arise from "the Valley of the Sun." Squaw Peak is a favorite, especially since I proposed to Heather at the pinnacle (way back in 1994). A few weeks ago, our entire family attempted to climb another favorite, Camelback Mountain, not a smart idea in the Phoenix summer heat (which, I can tell you, is not always dry), especially on that particular day, because by 8am, when we started, the temps were already a balmy 100 degrees.

Literally about 50 yards into the hike, not unexpectedly, our youngest son Levi asked me to carry him (yes, he is six, but still a good size to handle). Thinking that he could use the help, and that I would have a better workout, I quickly obliged and swung him on my back, much to his delight. Jeremiah and Emma, being the sweet older siblings that they are, immediately protested, recalling an earlier 7 mile hike we had done in the Smokey Mountains about 3 years ago in which I carried Levi the entire way while he was sleeping soundly in my arms. “He’s big enough to walk!” they said. Levi didn’t care about their taunts…he just gave them a big, satisfied smile which irritated them further, leading to additional stinging comments. Curious, I asked, “Why does it bother you that I am carrying Levi?” Jeremiah thought for a second, and said passionately “Because our family is supposed to be strong!”

As we continued up the mountain, I was struck with the multivariate and deep content of this statement. I thought to myself, “Are we teaching our kids that it is important for our family to appear strong to others looking in, or that they cannot display weakness?” Likely not directly (I hope), but we are raising our children in a world that shuns weakness, and esteems the strong, the rich, the successful, the popular, the privileged, and the independent, and this has consciously or subconsciously had an impact on ALL our worldviews. Consider Paul’s incredible, culture-counterintuitive comments in 2 Corinthians: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” Why would anyone boast in his or her weaknesses? Statements such as these just do not make sense in our cultural paradigm. But he gives the reason in the next chapter. After pleading with Christ to remove some unknown, yet tormenting “thorn in his flesh” (some have speculated he had a physical ailment, but perhaps it was something more common to us all…emotional distress, haunting thoughts, fierce temptations, false accusations, etc.), Jesus answered him by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul accepts His answer and wraps it up by saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

A good friend, Fred Haring, recently wrote, “Have you ever felt that God was calling you to do something that you're too weak for? Have you ever felt inadequate to represent a perfect God? The good news is that you don't have to pretend--you are inadequate.” The concept is simple, yet paradoxical, and may require a paradigm shift in our thinking: In a world that values strength, it is our very weakness that brings glory to God by the display of His strength. So yes, our family IS supposed to be strong…not in and of ourselves, so that we get any glory. But God’s strength displayed in our weakness.