Radical Freedom, Radical Grace Part 2: That Weak Things May Become Strong
In my last post, I introduced an idea that is fundamental to the way I make sense of this world: a perspective of radical freedom and radical grace.
Today, I want to explore another implication of this approach: the value of weakness.
In our fast-paced, modern world — and, let’s face it, our self-reliant Mormon culture — there is a sense that weakness and vulnerability are signs of inferiority. That when we struggle, it is because we are doing something “wrong”; or, perhaps, not doing enough things “right.”
And sure enough, with the radical freedom we possess, we create much of our own misery with our choices. That’s part of the purpose of this life, after all; to learn by our experience to determine good from evil.
But not all struggle is “choice”-related. Some of it is the inherent frailty of the flesh. We might say that Nature is as Radically Free as we are, and that it evolves all kinds of problems, such as illness, appetite, brutality, and disaster. For all its stunning beauty, the natural world is also viciously cruel: we have no power against a tsunami, for example. We are polarized beings in a polarized world, with sparks of divinity competing against base, fleshly instincts and natural processes that can destroy us in an instant.
Of course, we would not be free otherwise. Without both extremes, it would be like living in the Truman Show or the Hunger Games, with everything, even the weather, perfectly controlled. There are some who view God this way, as Master Game Maker, but not me. I believe that uncertainty, disease, and corruption are the price we pay for freedom. And that it’s worth it.
The question is what we do with it.
Do we use our freedom to submit to the will of God, or do we fight Him every step of the way? Do we admit our weakness in the face of bad choices, or do we bury the truth under judgment and shame? Do we accept our Thorns in the Flesh and Crosses to Bear — natural circumstances beyond our power to change — with humility and patience, or do we rebel? It can feel horribly debasing to relinquish the reigns, for the Natural Man yearns for control, but it is actually the most empowering choice we can make.
Consider the principle expressed so beautifully in the Book of Mormon…
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)
That’s the mystery, and the beauty, of the gospel. When we are weak, we are strong. Jesus’ Beatitudes say the same thing: when we are poor in spirit, we belong to the Kingdom of God. When we mourn, we are comforted. When we are meek, we inherit the power of the Earth. It’s an upside-down kind of world, this life of faith — counter-intuitive at times and deeply challenging. No wonder the scriptures speak of a strait and narrow gate, and few there be that find it.
But when we find it…the results are spectacular.
Here are the sorts of things that happen when weakness becomes strength:
- Spouses speak frankly about needs they have and mistakes they’ve made — and come to a greater sense of understanding and unity;
- Siblings take divergent paths and face strong disagreements — but embrace each other with humor and acceptance;
- Friends open up about struggles they face — and find hope and support in the process;
- Sinners repent and admit wrongdoing — and experience the sweet peace that comes from getting right with God.
I think we’d all agree that these are the sorts of experiences that make up a godly life, but they don’t happen when we cling to our facades of false strength. They are only accessible when we choose to lower our guard. When we embrace our weakness. When we allow the storms and sorrows of this fallen, free, chaotic world drive us to the arms of Christ and accept the radical grace He offers.
Does it hurt? Yep. It hurts like hell. The Natural Man releases his hold reluctantly. But the more we allow ourselves to go there, the more we find that we’re being remade in the image of Christ. The facade falls away, and we stand steady and clear in what is Real.
We discover that what we thought was weakness was actually strength all along.
Posted on March 23, 2012, in Mental Health, Mormonism, Personal, Radical Grace, Thoughts on God, Women and Happiness and tagged acceptance, Christ, Christianity, culture, honesty, love, Mormonism, strength, The Book of Mormon, the natural man, weakness. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.
Oh Katie, this was a beautiful post, and in many ways exactly what I needed to read today.
Beautiful writing! My hubby is a writer and I am constantly jealous of those with the gift! ; ). Thank you for this thought-provoking post…I have been doing a lot of studying and pondering of Ether 12:27 and HOW weakness can become strength and I appreciate your thoughts!
Thanks, guys. I’m glad you liked the post.
This part really resonated with me “It can feel horribly debasing to relinquish the reigns, for the Natural Man yearns for control, but it is actually the most empowering choice we can make.”
Once, when I was struggling deeply with BIG STUFF, again, the same big stuff, which I had struggled with again and again for decades, one day while praying I asked God why I hadn’t been able to conquer it yet. The answer came like lightning: *I* CAN’T conquer it. *I* never will be able to. But through the power of the atonement God can conquer it with me. I realized I had never before actually completely allowed God to give me the power to conquer it; I’d wanted to use my own power even while asking God to help me. I am so grateful for this revelation; I will never forget it, and I will never be the same.
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