Weakness Isn’t Failure

Check out my new accessory: crutches.

Related: my world keeps shrinking.

First it was shelter-in-place. All the places I could go before the pandemic whittled away to home plus walkability. And my ongoing joy before and during SIP has been walking around our beautiful small town. Time with my husband, with my dogs, with myself, sweating through thoughts and feelings until I could just be in the moment, enjoying the sunshine, the flowers, the birds and blue sky.

Even at home, I had no idea how much pleasure I took from relocating every so often: from the bedroom recliner to the living room lounger to the front porch Adirondack or the back deck bistro table, the simple act of changing my seat helped me to reset and refocus.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in the recliner and I realized how I missed the views from those different chairs as my day-long view narrowed to my bedroom.

I injured myself walking too hard, too fast, too far, too often. And even when I knew I was injured, when I began limping, I didn’t stop. I discontinued my daily walks, but I stayed upright and in motion: cooking, lugging full baskets of laundry, etc. Instead of getting better, I got worse until yesterday when I discovered that I could barely hobble and that attempting to hobble had become excruciating.

I should have stopped. I should have limited myself to stretching, icing, resting. I have regularly considered myself a champ at rest–oh, how I love a good nap!–so why did I find it so hard to give my injury the restful time it needed to heal?

Injury can be hard to admit. Injury = weakness. It feels like failure.

Maybe it would be different if I had done something spectacular, if I had slid off a mountainside or launched headlong over bike handles. Maybe if I had been training for a marathon. But that’s never been my style. Nope, my style is to do something common, uncommonly bad. My big-time fail involved insufficient stretching for walking around my neighborhood. That sounds so lame, yet here I am, temporarily lame.

On top of the pain I feel needy and frustrated; I have definitely shed some tears. But like the attitude shift necessary to adapt to the limited world of this pandemic pause, I have decided to look for the gift in the challenge.

The gift? Time! Not walking means I have more time in each day. Of course, I’d prefer not to be injured and to be pounding the pavement, but since I can’t be on my feet, I can write from any seat in the house.

Yesterday I opened a writing file I haven’t seen since before the 2019 holidays. I could have had a crappy first draft before 2020 began, but I put it away and let the tides of life carry me.

It feels good to be back at it, to have a project that depends on me to give it life. That maybe, someday, it will become something bigger than me and offer encouragement, hope, love to others. That’s the dream.

We all face challenges of one sort or another, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Sometimes the challenge is yours to journey alone. Or maybe you have a difficult work situation, or a significant relational issue. It’s tough to stop, to admit the injury and give it the time and attention it requires to heal. We don’t like to fail. But truly, weakness isn’t the failure. Not heeding the warning of pain, not attending to the weakness, not dealing with it swiftly and appropriately, that’s the failure.

How about you? What challenges are you facing, and what can you do to discover the gift inside?

Re:Create • Sanctified Imagination

Pictures of cute kittens and babies aside, one of the more useful benefits of social media is connecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. That’s exactly what happened when, a few years ago, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He had stumbled across our church website, then found my picture, and reached out. Since then I have been grateful to be back in touch, especially through his posts on Facebook and his blog. Quite a thoughtful writer, I am thrilled to have him share on the blog today. We would all do well to consider how the people in our lives shape the stories we read, tell, and live.

re:create recess #2: Randy Ehle

Re:Create
One of the greatest truths of our humanity is that we are created in God’s image. And being created in the image of the Creator God—the creative God—means we, too, are creative. Creation came into being when God spoke. He has revealed himself for all history through his Word, written. His redeeming Son, Jesus, is called The Word. And so my image-of-God creativity is expressed in words.

Re:New
I grew up in the church, so I knew all the stories, all the books, all the characters. I knew about daring to be a Daniel and being patient like Job (though frankly, Job never seemed all that patient to me once I really read him). I knew the twelve disciples and most of the twelve sons of Jacob. I knew Moses and Joseph, David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah. I’m sure I had the full set of Little Golden Books, including Jonah’s whale and Jericho’s tumbling walls.

But by the time I’d become a pastor, the stories had become merely that: stories. Even with more translations at my fingertips than Legion’s demons, I could scarcely read my Bible without already knowing what comes next. Familiarity had bred, if not contempt, at least complacency. Then I met Carolyn.

Carolyn volunteered in our church office. Warm, chatty, deeply caring, and ever wanting to learn more about Jesus, Carolyn and I had long conversations about life, the Bible, and whether the God of the Old Testament changed in the New. I learned as much from Carolyn’s questions as she did from any of my seminary-trained insights. I also learned something about disabilities. You see, Carolyn had been in a wheelchair for a quarter century, the result of a freak accident in which her mail jeep overturned, pinning her under a mound of first-class letters, junk mail, and packages.

Carolyn's baptism in the American River

Carolyn’s baptism in the American River

As I got to know Carolyn, I also met anew some men and women I’d been reading about since childhood: the blind men, lepers, and paralytics whose lives intersected with, and were changed by, Jesus. As I heard more of Carolyn’s story—not just the accident, but everyday life with a lower spine injury—I began to wonder about the lives of those biblical men and women.

Re:Write
Though I’ve enjoyed writing since my school days, for most of my life I wrote only for myself. Even when I began writing a blog, I did little to solicit readers. Writing was an outlet for the thoughts and ideas circulating in my head, but I never felt I had much to add to the world’s conversations. Any conversation. Meeting Carolyn began to change that, and led me to think about another paralytic:

His friends created the world’s first skylight, lowered his bed through the hole, and hoped beyond hope they wouldn’t have to lift him out the same way. Waving the swirling dust away from his face, the itinerant healer in the room below spoke … not words of healing, but of conviction!

“Your sins are forgiven.”

We who are familiar readers of the text barely skip a beat here. We rush right on by, scarcely noticing the crowd’s incredulity. We want to get to the good stuff, the miracles, the healing. We know what comes next and love to watch Jesus stick it to the self-righteous religious folks … who, of course, are not we. Because of Carolyn, I read the words with new eyes; like a blind man given new sight, I began to see beyond the words on the page.

The over-crowded room had only packed tighter with the invasion of the horizontal alien from above. The dust and dirt of the impromptu renovation choked throats while the brief cooling from the escaping air was replaced with the heat of the noonday sun now streaming onto their heads.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

What?!? What in the world does that mean?

Neither the hushed crowd nor the prone man could believe what they’d heard. They were equally incredulous, but for vastly different reasons: the crowd, because of the healer’s audacity to think he had the right to forgive sins; the paralytic, because of the audacity to think he—crippled as he was—had even the slightest capacity to sin.

If we were filming in 21st century style, we might pause the action here and focus the camera on the man’s reclined face. He would speak an aside, directly to the audience, revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. Having no such cinematic tools at our disposal, however, we are left to our imaginations – our sanctified imaginations. It’s a term my mom uses often to encourage deep, extra-biblical thinking about feelings, thoughts, and actions the Bible doesn’t tell us. And so I write—or rather, rewrite—from that sanctified imagination.

In recounting the story of the paralytic, the gospel writers are concerned with Jesus’ divine authority. Saying “your sins are forgiven” is easy and shows no visible effect; but causing a known cripple to walk is no cheap trick. In fact, the evangelists tell us, this is more about confirming Jesus’ authority to forgive than about demonstrating mercy.

There’s more to the story; more to the story that’s written, and more to the story that’s not written. Maybe my re:creation—my sanctified imagination—will open others’ eyes to the Creator. Maybe my words will open others’ ears to the Word whose Word is Life. Maybe I have something to add to the conversation, after all.

rehle-bio

 

Randy Ehle is a husband and father, coach and teacher, writer and speaker. He was—and longs again to be—a pastor. He’s lived in Canada, Germany, England, and throughout the United States; and has traveled on four of the seven continents. A self-described “rushed contemplative,” Randy has known life and death, gain and loss, wisdom and foolishness. He uses writing as a creative outlet, spiritual inspiration, and personal challenge for his readers. Find more of Randy’s thoughts at www.randehle.com.

“Just one time.”

At its center, every creative act requires vulnerability. And I am flat-out-on-the-floor humbled that today’s guest post writer allowed this simple blog and the invitation to express her creativity to become the vehicle to share a story so vulnerable, so powerful, so raw and real. She says, “God has been prompting me to write my story in some capacity for years, and I’ve never had the courage to do it before. If someone can be reached, changed, moved to obey and, God willing, to forgive, then my sharing will be worth it.” Friends, I pray you will read this story with sensitivity, and that you will be en-Couraged to forgive, to say YES to God in the hardest parts of life’s darkness, allowing Him to turn them to light.

Create Challenge #13: Karyn Bergenpage-banner-help-topic-forgiveness

The story I am about to share with you is a story of how I forgave someone when they weren’t asking for forgiveness. Sit with that for a second. Ponder what it would be like to truly forgive someone who doesn’t think what they did was wrong. How does a person get to the point of forgiving another when the forgiveness isn’t being sought after? The answer to that question in one word is obedience.

My purpose in sharing my story is so I can reveal to you what was created through my obedience To God’s prompting.

As a child I was sexually abused. The “by whom” doesn’t matter other than for you to understand that this isn’t a person I could rid from my life with ease. He was and still is intertwined whether I liked it or not. The abuse went on from the time I was about 5 or 6 years old to 12 years old. It was ongoing and consistent. It was normal until the day I figured out that it wasn’t everyone’s normal. That was the day it stopped. That was the day I never spoke of or thought of it again until I was a freshman in college.

To this day, as a 43-year-old woman, when I allow myself to look back it is often those memories that come to the forefront of my mind first. The abuse is ingrained in me. I live with the memories of it. Over the top of the memories, like an umbrella shielding me from a heavy rainstorm, is the knowledge that Christ is with me and if I remain obedient to Him He will lead me through my days.

When I was 34 years old I confronted my abuser. It was the first time we had ever spoken of what happened. I had convinced myself that a similar type of abuse must have happened to him otherwise why would he have done it to me? I was desperate for justification, I suppose. I needed to find a reason so it would make some sense.

It turned out that he hadn’t suffered as I had. It also turned out that he “didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” I marched on with the knowledge that he simply chose to abuse me and felt no remorse. To me, that was the worst case scenario of a truly horrible situation.

Fast forward. I was now nearly 40 years old. I received a text message from my abuser. He said he was suffering from residual effects of too many years of alcohol and drug abuse.

“Could you take me to the doctor because I don’t think I can drive myself?”

Here I was being asked to help the person who did nothing but hurt me. Why am I being put in this situation? As the text progressed into a phone conversation, I heard God whisper to me, “Just one time. Help him just one time.” The whisper was so gentle, yet so clear. It was a whisper I had heard a handful of other times in my life and had never regretted being obedient to the direction. I heard myself say to my abuser, “Yes, I will help. One time.”

I arrived to a gravely ill person who had been consuming nothing but handle-sized bottles of vodka for three weeks straight. His whites of his eyes and his skin were yellow. His apartment was unmentionable. I felt badly for him. His choices had led him to such darkness. My choice at this point, in this situation, was to remain obedient “just one time.”

My choice to remain obedient to God’s prompting led me to a place where I saw a broken person rather than my abuser. He could no longer hurt me. In fact, this time, I was in charge. This time, I was calling the shots. In all honesty, my abuser is darn lucky God was with me. I am human after all and I commit sins and act upon my free will. If it had been up to me I wouldn’t have helped him….not once, not ever. I point this out so you fully understand that what was created was not from me.

I chose to remain obedient “just one time” and as a result of that choice, I saw a person who wasn’t scary anymore. My heart broke open for him. My heart wished for good things to happen in his life. My heart felt towards him as I would anyone else who I held close and, dare I say, love. I was in awe of the healing that God brought to me as a result of the obedience. I forgave an atrocity when forgiveness wasn’t being sought after. I was freed from the confines of my own thoughts and memories.

To this very day, the forgiveness remains. He is no longer my abuser. He is a person whom I can say I care very much about. He is someone we see from time to time….not too often and never will my children be alone with him. However, the decision to protect my children isn’t fueled by resentment and fear. It’s simply smart parenting. Through obedience, forgiveness was created. God breathed. God’s will. My healing.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Matthew 6:14
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Karyn also recommends this song:

 

KBergen

Karyn is a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and believer in Jesus Christ. She resides in Alamo, California, with her husband and three kids. After many years spent as a stay-at-home-mom, Karyn now works as a teacher’s aid and substitute teacher at her children’s school, Alamo Elementary. She’s an avid runner who feels closest to God when her feet are hitting the pavement.