Humility and dependency are core elements of Christianity—that is, of a believer’s life as a follower of Jesus. That much is clear from God’s side in the phrase: “My strength is made perfect in weakness;” and from man’s in: “when I am weak, then I am strong.” I gladly accept, as I think most of us do, the contrition built into that once-in-a-lifetime repentance essential to rebirth. What I struggle with are the daily reminders of my inadequacy, failures ranging from ineptitude to arrogance. They feel more like humiliation than humility. There are times I’d rather have power than grace, and success than faith—and I suspect I’m not alone. The question is how to be so regularly crushed, without being crushed—so to speak.
Recently, I attended my first Dallas Mavericks game, on the invitation of a friend. I had the rare privilege to sit courtside. Two things stood out. First was the youth of the players. I mean it only respectfully, but TV must add not only 10 pounds but also 10 years. Most of them looked like they could be in high school or college. Only a few looked as old as their mid-twenties. The advantage to youth was obvious in the sheer athleticism of the whole event, but never more so than when a Mav right in front of me, at a critical moment in the last two minutes, pulling up during a hard drive to the lane, lost traction with one foot so that his legs split under him. I pulled a muscle just watching it happen. But instead of calling for a trainer or flailing in agony, he managed (while about six inches from the floor) to keep the ball live and pass to a teammate for a critical score to help seal the win, and then bounced back up to play defense at the other end of the court.
Second was the teammates’ support for each other. Not only did they offer a hand to help pick someone up every time they hit the floor, but they were constantly encouraging with nods, hand slaps, chest bumps, and the like. At one point a stranger behind me in the stands made an audible insult about a Mav who had just missed a free throw. His teammate stared down the critic in an ironically hilarious but ominously intense visual admonition. (That fan quietly snuck out just afterward.)
The reality for us is that we find one foot sliding toward what will be a catastrophe for our spiritual joints and muscles every day: whether involuntarily toward disappointment, anger, and fear, or more intentionally toward outright disobedience. What we want is to be so young and strong that we can levitate, magically fending off what everyone else would expect to be a failure while saving the day with a perfect pass or even score. But that’s not how our Christianity works. We don’t succeed by brute strength and effort. We survive the slip—the pressure, the impending failure, the despair—because God Himself puts out a hand and picks us up: sometimes through a teammate, sometimes through an encounter with His word or His Spirit in prayer or a providential circumstance. The fact that we need that help every week—every day—may be a testimony to our weakness, but it’s also a testimony to His strength and how available it is to us in grace.
This week, may every one of our precarious weaknesses be met by His persistent grace.