As 2011 comes to its close I feel myself limping over the line. By the grace of God I'm alive. I'm welcome in the family of the Triune God.
I'm still doing a job I love and I've received some brilliant support and training in the last year which has increased both my knowledge of God and of myself. I've has the privilege of working as a Bible teacher and Evangelist in a wide range of contexts, opportunities I feel very thankful to have received. I'm probably playing to my strengths more than before, because I feel like I know what some of them might be now. And at home, we've received the gift of a second son and seen our first son turn into a full-blown toddler.
In many ways its been a great year, but it's also been hard.We're in the fog of sleep-deprivation. I'm not complaining. I have. I do. I've ranted. I've grumbled. Today I just identify the hardness of it and accept it. Tomorrow I might well grumble about it. Learning to repent quicker is part of maturity. I've been wrong. I am wrong. Will you forgive me?
The fog is a weakness that is a side-effect of one of the best of blessings. And becoming a Dad has done wonders for a lots of things in my life. Additionally, we went through a few months early in the year in which it seemed like everything we owned went wrong at substantial cost. It was relentless and a big portion of the money we'd put aside to pay the mortgage during maternity leave ended up being used to pay for other things.... Etc.
All of which is context to an evening at the end of June when I sat in a CU meeting and heard the word of God. The letter to the Laodiceans (Revelation 3) was preached, of those who would say: I need nothing.
And it pierced my heart, how readily I like to be self-sufficient; how much I liked to think I could handle my life. How I'd portray our circumstances as OK; how I'm reluctant to ask for help, preferring to fix things myself. This has it's advantages - driving me to achieve and accomplish things. But there are times when I'm never going to press through. My response such struggles in the past has been to bury my head in the sand rather than asking for help - when I struggled at University I didn't talk to my tutor, I stopped going to tutorials. Evidence that I'm a sinful idiot abounds when I'm prepared to admit it.
Jacob spent his years acquiring, taking, winning. Until on the edge of the land (in Genesis 32) he spent a night clinging on to the LORD and came away limping. And had to limp back into the promised land. And he was richer for it. He and I limp into our inheritance following our wounded Saviour. Ours is the God who shows his power not in displays of grandeur but in the naked vulnerability of becoming a baby.
Its easy to be confident and come across better than others. God has blessed me a lot and I take a lot of it for granted. I'm learning (I want to say 'I've learned' but that's the thing...), I'm learning that I have need and I have weakness and that the outworking of the gospel of Jesus in need and weakness is important.
Marcus posted: "I vividly recall a leader of a large ministry saying to me “you guys always criticise what I do and my Bible teaching but you never offer to come and help me improve. Wouldn’t that be the better thing to do?” He was right. I was chastened. I think my answer to Paul’s concern would be to say to a UCCF team leader whose team was clearly overbalanced one way or the other “can we work with you to help lift you up in the areas you are weak at the moment.” It is hard to see how that isn’t a win/win situation."
Going into 2012 I desire to be more ready to receive the help of people who can lift me, and I think more prepared to go and ask them for help in the first place. I need my Heavenly Father to carry me over the line. And I need his people to carry me too. I don't want to live in Laodicea in 2012. The more of Christ I have the less I can possibly say 'I need nothing'.
So, when you see me in my weakness - whether via what I write here, or more likely as you're on the end of 'gospel ministry' from me, or just in conversation and everyday situations of life in which I'm sinful, weak and stupid. Please don't criticise me - though it'd be understandable for you to do so - please instead come and help me. I should have asked for your help in the first place. Please offer your strengths to help me in my weaknesses. Come share life with me. Put yourself in the line of fire. Help me with grace and encouragement and practical assistance, so that I would see my Christ more clearly and know his loving embrace more deeply.
I like to think the glory is in winning... but with Jesus there might just be more glory in limping home, carried by the Generous Father who gives himself to me.