Strength and weakness

Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Messiah’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9

There are times when we stumble badly at temptation and blow it. We get into an angry outburst when we know we should return good for evil and turn the other cheek. And then we feel terrible about ourselves and our weaknesses and, discouraged, say:”Well, there goes our lovely testimony about the Messiah. What’s the use. I give up.”

I remember just such a day in Jerusalem. I had been up early in the morning before going to work, to water the large garden I was caring for in our apartment complex, until some irate neighbors said out their windows, “Why do you water in the morning– we can’t sleep!” So I watered in the evening, and was told by another disgruntled neighbor, “Why do you water in the evening– we can’t sit on the grass!” It had been a long hot summer day and I was tired and I exploded at the neighbor and went home. I told my wife that I had just ruined our testimony of the Messiah, and we should return to where we had come from. But then the Lord whispered to me, “Go and apologize to him.”

That is a very novel approach here in the harshness of the Holy Land, as pretty much any negative occurrence is deemed the other’s fault, without exception.  To ask forgiveness is nearly as unheard-of as fish in the Dead Sea.  So I pulled myself together and went down the steps from our apartment and knocked on that neighbor’s door.  When it opened I just said, “I’m sorry I blew up at you, I was exhausted and…”  “No problem,” he said immediately with a very surprised smile, and we became friendly neighbors from that day forth.

The principle is the same whether it is with our wives or children or our brothers in the faith. They may see us blow it, but then let them see us also fix the mess and reconcile.  Perhaps if we practiced more of what we preach, we might have more unity, and a more healthy body of believers.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In other words, this lamp is lit inside a cracked pot- the cracks of our weaknesses often being from where the light of the Lord may come forth to be seen. A ‘perfect’ pot has not a crack, and often can display only its own strength and beauty, and folks often resent ‘perfect’ people, which only challenges their own egos and weaknesses. Better, perhaps, to be a ‘crackpot’, though it may at times be rather humbling.