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Weakness is Our Strength
A few days ago, my son Jesse (who is five) was playing on the climbing wall at school when he fell and twisted his ankle. Fearful of putting any pressure on his hurt ankle, he would limp and shuffle, grasping for any support like a rail, a wall, or a hand so that he could steady himself and get the confidence he needed so he could walk.
Jesse has special needs. He struggles with what’s called Global Dyspraxia, which is a fancy way of saying he has a hard time planning how to move and manipulate his body. This has kept him from being able to speak clearly or walk and run very well. He just doesn’t do some of the things that other five year-old boys can do when they are, well, five. But while Jesse does struggle with these developmental delays, you wouldn’t know it just to look at him. He has some fantastic traits that people fall instantly in love with. He’s a celeb most everywhere we go.
About a week after this injury, our family went to the local YMCA for a swim. As Jesse fearfully and carefully tried to walk across the lobby, I struggled to keep my patience as we walked. Looking around, feeling like all eyes were on me and my boy, I noticed people were looking at Jesse in a different way than I was used to. As I saw the staff who knew Jesse at the Y view us from a distance, I saw their puzzled looks. People around me who were eager to pass by gave us a look of pity, an awkward smile, and some even a look of frustration. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like a loner, the Dad with a handicapped son, and it felt horrible.
It felt horrible because I don’t want to be the Dad with a handicapped son. I’ve gotten so used to my son’s disability that, quite frankly, I sometimes forget (or at least choose not to believe) that he is handicapped. He’s got challenges. He’s a child with special needs. He’s different than the rest. Only now, it felt amplified. It was obvious to everyone that Jesse, my child, my son, is handicapped. There was no hiding it or masking it and I felt embarrassed.
In that moment struggling to keep it all together, I felt sad, embarrassed, frustrated. But, most of all, I felt a deep compassion for my son. I didn’t want anyone to associate my son with a disability, a special need, or any physical abnormality. In that moment, in a very tangible way, I felt the desperate need for Jesus.
Being associated with sorrow or pain or weakness is something we all struggle with. It’s part of being a human in a fallen and broken world. We want to be strong. We put up this front that we’re someone who is whole and fully functional. But the reality is, we’re not all whole, and we don’t all have it together, and our life is not at all fully functional.
Now imagine that God, perfect in every single way, Creator of the universe and not in need of anyone or anything, willingly putting himself in a position where he is associated with weakness, brokenness, and imperfection. Imagine Him choosing to absorb the most despicable looks and comments, as well as the treatment that even a common criminal doesn’t even deserve. Well He did. Jesus knows what it feels like to live in the midst of grief and suffering, rejection and heartache.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Is. 53:3
It’s always my weakness that brings out my need for Jesus. It’s also when I am involved with the need of others around me (in this instance it was my son) whose weaknesses bring out my compassion and desire for them to know and to be loved by Jesus.
Jesus gives us hope because, in his association with our weakness, he is able to comfort and give us the promise of a new life, a whole life, an abundant life. Our hope isn’t in this world but in the world to come. God has secured for us an eternity of wholeness because his son was broken on our behalf.
I need to remember that when I either don’t want to be associated with those who are considered broken or, when I forget that I am broken myself.