[sent on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006, to the faithful subscribers of the subversive underground]
WEAKNESS by Keith Giles
In my own life, I’ve had more than one opportunity to embrace my own weakness in search of Christ’s power within.
My first discovery of this truth was early in my Christian walk, and to be honest, I didn’t really understand it completely at the beginning. Not the way I do now.
I was a Junior in High School and I had fallen in love with a beautiful, red-headed girl from Houston, Texas. She was a Senior, and I really wanted to see her graduate at the end of the school year. The only problems were that I lived in El Paso, several hundred miles away, and my semester finals were one week after she would actually walk the aisle and take her diploma.
I was undaunted. For weeks I prayed that God would open the doors for me to get down to Houston one week earlier than my semester finals in order to watch her graduate from High School.
My plan was simple. First, I would begin to mow lawns and wash cars, and do odd jobs, for the members of my church in order to raise money for a plane ticket to Houston. By the end of the school year I was sure to have the few hundred dollars necessary to purchase a ticket.
Secondly, I discovered that I would need a special waiver from my principal allowing me to take my semester finals with our Senior class, which were one week earlier than everyone else’s final exams, because I was only a Junior.
For weeks I held fast to the scripture verse from Philipians that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I repeated it all the time. I reminded God of that verse every time I prayed, and God even reciprocated by inserting the verse into the strangest places and from the most unlikely mouths, as the weeks wore on.
I was certain that I could do this seemingly impossible thing, because God was going to help me.
However, with only three weeks left before the end of the semester, I had raised no funds whatsoever. Not one person in my church had called to hire me to do a single thing. I had no money for travel expenses. What’s more, I still had to convince my principal that I should be allowed to take my finals a week early along with the Seniors.
Then, an astounding thing happened. I gave up.
I remember lying on my bed, praying to God, with tears of frustration and disappointment streaming down my teenaged face. “I give up God. I’ve tried God. You know how I’ve tried. I thought I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but I have to admit I can’t do it. So, if you want me to go to Houston, God, you’ll have to make it happen because I can’t.”
I had no idea what those words did as they reverberated through the walls of the Kingdom of God. “I can’t do it, God,” I said. “It’s up to you”.
Two days later my miracle came. I answered the phone and my youth pastor was telling me that he was leaving El Paso and moving away. Before I could lament my condition any further, he asked me if I’d like to help him move down to his new house in Houston.
I couldn’t believe it. Here God had provided a way for me to travel to Houston and it hadn’t cost me anything at all. Of course, I said yes.
But the matter of the waiver from my principal was still hanging over my head. The next day I went to my counselor and received the waiver that my principal needed to sign in order to be allowed to take my finals a week early. I saw him talking in the hallway between classes to the associate principal and made my way towards him, practicing my speech under my breath about why he needed to allow me this special favor.
As I stood before him, waiting patiently for him to finish his conversation with his associate, he suddenly reached out in mid-sentence and took the slip of paper out of my hand. Before I knew it, without even having looked at me twice, he had scribbled his name on the line and handed me back the paper.
For a moment I stood frozen in place. I couldn’t really believe what had just happened. All that I had strived for and failed at, God had sewn up in a matter of hours, and I had not done a single thing to make any of it happen.
Later that night, I took out my Bible and I re-read those words in Philipians. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Suddenly they made a different kind of sense to me than before. It wasn’t that God was waiting to bless what I wanted, or to strengthen my efforts, it was that God was the one through whom all things should be done, for His glory and in His strength.
His power, not mine. His wisdom, not mine. His strength, my weakness.
I wish I could say that every day afterwards I operated on this divine principal of weakness, but I did not. It would take many more trials and tests of my faith before I would really begin to get it.
So, after taking my finals with the Seniors, helping my youth pastor pack up the moving van, and driving hundreds of miles towards the lights of Houston, Texas I discovered something else about the amazing power of weakness and depending on God’s strength.
The house that my youth pastor was living in was across the street from the red-headed girl’s house. I kid you not.
For that one summer, I enjoyed the leisure of God’s amazing grace to me, expressed in His kindness to me at refusing to give me what I wanted the way I wanted it.
Praise God that he didn’t allow anyone to hire me for odd jobs. Praise God that I wasn’t allowed the pleasure of persuading my principal for special consideration. Praise God that I didn’t have to travel to Houston alone, book a hotel room and rent a car in order to see my girlfriend graduate from High School.
Praise God for my amazing weakness. Praise God for His amazing strength in the face of my inability.
There’s a popular bumper sticker I remember from several years ago that read, “God Is My Co-Pilot”. The truth, I was soon to learn, was that if God isn’t the pilot, you’re on the wrong airplane.