But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
It is Day 38 of Lent and I am weak. I tell you this because it’s true. The Apostle Paul tells you the same in the very next words of verse 10, “I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.”
I’ve read this verse a thousand times, it is a Christian staple. My brain gets in the way though. My thinking, my complication, my resistance to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say. I think I know better, I think I’m smarter. I am not. I am a garbage can of thoughts. I have an agenda. I am a mess of a human. And this, this has led me to fall on my knees in front of the altar of my God. He expects me. He expects me to do this as homage to Him. He knew I would fail. He knew I would be here. Nothing is a surprise to the King of the universe.
In my great anxiety I was exasperated, when God? when will the pain end? The anxiety is too much and I am failing you Lord. Many have told me I have no faith if my anxiety has taken over. That I am lacking. This continued to make me feel less than, a betrayer of the one who saved me. Am I Judas Lord? I questioned myself. And this brought me into an even greater despair. Such is the plot of the enemy.
As I sat in front of the crucifix at mass this morning my anxiety was palpable. It was physiological. I was a mess of nerves and sweat. Things were not going according to plan. But when I fell to my knees, the devil couldn’t penetrate the grasp of the Holy Spirit, He spoke that scripture to me.
I had asked so many times, sometimes from minute to minute for God to take away my anxiety, for God to take away my physiological response when things get tough. But God has refused me. I never saw it as something to give up on- I always believed that someday it would be gone. But today I heard a freeing truth- it will never go away. It can’t be prayed away, anointed or exorcised. It can’t be charasmatically eliminated. It is the very thing that brings me to my knees. It is the very thing that keeps me glued to Christ.
I bowed my head… yes Lord! Yes Lord this is my cross!!! It is not a lack of faith but a gift. Yes Lord it is all grace. And in that moment I accepted all of it- the heart racing, the sweat, the tears, the inability to eat, the rocking back and forth, the pain, the panic. It was all beautiful now. It was all a gift of God.
How could it have taken me this long??? Six years and thirty eight days into Lent I had a massive explosion. God had broken me. And I repeated Stephen Colbert’s quote in my mind,
Our weaknesses are exquisite, they are not demeaning, or false or something to be prayed out. Rather, they are something to be taken in, accepted. They are the cross of Christ, the crown of thorns, the torn body. They are blood on my hands, my human betrayal and my failure to stay just one hour. And they are…everything.
Easter is coming but my anxiety will remain. I will not pull out the thorn in my side. It is a piece of the crown of thorns that keeps me in His arms.