My mother-in-law started teaching for the first time this year with an organization that places people in schools that have limited resources or are located in challenging parts of the city/country. My husband, Drew, and I got to visit her second grade class and tell them a little bit about what it’s like to live in Africa. After we left, Drew’s mom had them all write us a thank you note and when she brought home the notes a couple days later, it seemed the main thing they remember from our talk was Spanish… can you say “fail,” on our part?
We talked about where all their favorite animals come from (and it’s not actually the zoo!), what African fabric looks like, other kids just like them in Africa longing to go to school, and a how of course how to greet each other in the local language Nianja… NOT Spanish! So much for our prospects in the field of elementary education…
Thank goodness they have a different teacher who is with them 99% of the time working her best to invest in their education where we fell short the 30 minutes or so we were in the classroom. Aside from this relatively minor and funny failure, God has taught me so much about the depth of my weakness through this past year in a very difficult season. Despite the cuts to my pride, at the end of the day I am deeply grateful.
As the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4, verse 15 proclaims,
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus does not shy away from our weakness, he understands it, He came because of and in spite of all the areas we fall short. The verse continues,
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in our time of need.”
Those words hit me like a wall this week. I have had a lot of time for reflection these past couple of weeks while I’m away from my husband and working from my parent’s home while they are away at work. There has been so much quiet and space, which for me has resulted in coming face to face with my own weakness. Right now I am away from the constant affirmation of my husband, I don’t have the comfort of working with my team in Zambia, and I have felt a desperate need for grace.
I love how the writer of Hebrews proclaims this verse in the NKJV, come boldly to the throne of grace. Though God knows our weaknesses, He does not bind them to us, but offers us abundant grace and mercy because of His great love. God’s grace is not an escape from weakness, for as even Jesus knows from experience, weakness is part of being human. However, His grace is an overcoming of weakness that is altogether outside of us.
In the Christian culture, we often encourage one another to do better and try harder to display the love of Christ and follow His commandments. While these ideas are well-meaning and practical, they can easily create a counter-grace mentality. I have personally felt the pressure to put on a good face and set a perfect example, but this will be achievable only in part. At the end of the day if perfection is my goal, I will be the same failure who taught second graders Spanish in an effort to describe Africa.
I have been reading the book The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, by Peter Greer, President and CEO of a huge, Christian, non-profit organization, and he has challenged me in the same way to think about grace in its true form. He says,
“In theory, the concept of grace is attractive. But recognizing that I can never meet the expectations for God — that being good enough is out of reach — is uncomfortable.”
Weakness and failure make me very uncomfortable, but it is in precisely that place of vulnerability where I know that God can use me. Any good that comes out of my weakness is undeniably outside of me.
Where is God calling you from in order to embrace His throne of grace?
May we be like children, clothed in our weakness and altogether captivated with His precious mercy and grace.