One of my favorite past-times is going on long walks. Depending on the day, I’ll play a podcast or talk on the phone. But 90% of the time, when I walk, I walk in silence. I want to take in my little neighborhood and the changing of the seasons. I want to notice the differences in the trees and how they teach me about my Creator God. But mostly, I want to make space to hear from the Lord and process all He’s doing in my life.
Lately, these walks have gotten longer. Not in mileage, but in length of time. Carrying a baby in my very body slows me, and I’m not quite as swift as I used to be.
We learn rhythms in life. We learn how far we can push ourselves before exhaustion. We learn whether we’re wired for the morning or the evening. We learn to utilize those things that restore us and to limit those things that drain us.
I think the first time I took this lesson to heart I had just begun working as a campus minister. It was the year following college, and to know that “discipling women” and “leading Bible studies” now filled my job description left me ecstatic.
But the first three Fridays on the job, I cried. And honestly, the strangest part was not that I was crying but that I could not tell you why I was crying. No one hurt my feelings, no one stood me up that week, and I didn’t trip or wreck my car or miss something important. I just cried. And I left everyone around me confused by my tears (especially my husband).
Anyone else ever been there?
I praise the Lord for those tears because in them, my weakness was exposed. I realized just how deeply weary, tired, and weak I felt at the end of that third cry. The Lord was kindly showing me that, though my schedule was filled with good, life-giving, Christ-honoring things, He was not authoring it. I was making decisions on how to spend my time based on availability, preference, and the apparent “needs” of the women’s ministry. Looking to the Lord and asking Him how He might desire to lead me, author my days, and use me had failed to cross my mind.
He’s since only infused this need to look to Him to author my schedule with richer theologies of work and rest, of seeking first His Kingdom, of leading and dependence, and of stewarding my gifts and energies and resources for His Name. And as I’ve walked with my Shepherd, conviction simply continues to grow stronger in this area.
Learning to accept the newness of pregnancy and its draining effects on my body and energy level has done that thing again. It’s exposed my weakness. And once again, I don’t just mean physically.
Before I entered the great privilege of carrying my sweet girl, my capacity for engaging and meeting with others, carrying out responsibilities, and accomplishing all the tasks I desired for the day was overall on the high side. Efficiency has been a false place of refuge for me on more occasions than I’d like to admit, but when surrendered to the Lord’s agenda, knowing how much I could get done in certain pockets of time only aided my work unto Him.
But things are different now. As God would ordain in this season, I lack the energy I once had to spend lots of time with people. I feel my limitations strongly, growing weak and tired much more quickly than before. Now, if I spend my bits of energy with people, I am prone to feel inadequate to fulfill the responsibilities that remain. And though I haven’t cried for three Fridays in a row, I know I’m learning a very similar lesson.
I was talking to a friend in her second pregnancy, and she said something like this:
“I really believe that God in His grace is showing us that we must choose what is better, what He has for us. When once we could do anything and everything (at least in our own thinking or strength), He ordains this pregnancy season to show us that we must look to Him and discern how He desires we spend our time.”
I told her that I thought she needed to talk to every first-time pregnant woman.
Because the feelings of despair and the longings I have for the energy, time, or capacity I once had - these feelings expose the place of my hope. My heart-wrestling of a lack of surrender to the very real, very present, very God-ordained weakness exposes the places I’m looking to for life.
Weakness may look different for you. Inadequate, insufficient, insecure – these may surface in areas of your life other than physical body changes. Work, relationships, certain roles required of us (like mom or student) – these and more provide stages for us to fall short.
You may not have experienced anything like this yet in your life. But I would venture to say: the time is coming. Exposure of weakness has God’s authorship all over it. I feel much like the Israelites must have when the wilderness posed threats to their security and control and comfort, and their longings for Egypt exposed the nature of their un-trusting, unfaithful, independent hearts.
This is the crux, the coming to grips for me during pregnancy. Time and time again my weakness is exposed. I cannot tell you how often I’ve been asked, “Are you okay?” or “Are you going to make it?” or “Do you need to rest?” after the simplest act of walking up the stairs, going to work, or staying long (or a regular amount of time) at a party or function.
And when my weakness is exposed, I cringe. I beg the Lord for grace to respond to these kind and caring people, no matter how badly I want to tell them to move along, nothing to see here, to stop drawing attention to me, and most of all, to kindly refrain from digging their fingers in a wound I’d like to keep covered.
But as I’ve warred in my heart in these little moments, the Lord has been drawing me deeper, begging me to acknowledge and understand the nature of weakness in His value system.
“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
In the midst of a culture ridden with pride, personal achievement, and worthiness based on success and being the best, weakness finds a lonely place. It’s something to be pitied by onlookers and defended by those apparent with its effects.
But as we look to Scripture, as we look to the God who intentionally made Himself low, took on flesh, born as a helpless babe in the most pitiful of places, we find that weakness is in God’s wheelhouse. Weakness is the place where He gets glory. And weakness is the place where we get Him.
So when I allow weakness to be a place of shame, a place I'd like to hide, a place where I wish things were different and where I wish I measured up, I am forsaking the grace that could be mine. When I don't allow weakness to humble me for God's good purpose, I am forsaking the treasure of knowing and exalting the God who not only dwells in the high and holy, but also with him who is contrite and lowly (Isaiah 57). Who chooses the weak, the poor, the lame, the ones ridden with shame to be the vessels and the heralds of His resurrection power.
Here are the things weakness has exposed in my heart. Maybe you’ll spot a glimpse of your own, too.
Weakness exposes my desire to find my worth in what I do.
Weakness exposes my fear of man.
Weakness exposes my bent towards independence – that I prefer to be in control of my own life.
Weakness exposes my desire to receive glory.
If you find yourself exposed like I have, instead of living in the shame that is sure to follow the feelings of weakness, let us take up the privilege that is ours in Christ. We can humbly agree with what weakness says of us – that we are not enough, not Savior, not Sovereign, not King – though we desperately desire to be.
We can repent of hoping in and worshiping the idols of self-sufficiency and independence, because our blessed Savior not only shared with us the nature of His Kingdom – lowliness, humility, and poverty of spirit – but He also entered into our weakness, putting on flesh to experience all that we do and to redeem all that we experience. And it’s in our turning to Him in our weakness and frailty that we receive His perfect power, His peace, His abundance, and His grace. And the security that comes upon receiving from Him in such an intimate and vulnerable place frees us to exalt Him who is our Strength.
I believe I'll have many times as a mother to choose to lean into my weakness that I may know more of the power of Christ. I'll have many occasions of falling short and lifting high the One who was perfect on my behalf. And I am sure to be hard-pressed time and time again, needing to know and remember that my weakness is for my good, to humble me and draw me deeper in dependence on and freedom in the only One who gives life.
grace & peace,
ps. if you missed the first two secret struggles during pregnancy, I'd love for you to read them