February 27, 2013

When Strengths are a Weakness

I awoke this past Sunday morning with a sense of dread. I knew the day would be full of conversations, details to remember and ask about, a meeting or two, and, of course, parenting my boys and preparing a menu for the week and other assorted household duties, and I just didn’t feel I had the stamina for it all. Life has been busy lately and I find myself searching desperately for solitude.

As much as I wish I weren’t, I’m an introvert. Too many people in a day or too many evenings in a week given to events or activities and I’m spent. Waking on Sunday, this is what I attributed my dread to, knowing that to get through the day I’d need to push myself outward and do some things I just didn’t want to do.
But in the early morning hours, wrapping my hands around the warm coffee cup, God asked me to consider a different source of my dread, something beyond just my need for introspection and quietness. Perhaps, He said, you dread being with people today because you fear being a disappointment to them. And you also fear being a disappointment to yourself. Of course He was right, so right that it almost shocked me to see it so clearly. Why yes, that’s it exactly.

I had to ask myself a few questions, one being primary: What did I mean when I told myself that I’m not a good pastor’s wife? I feel this way because I’m not an extrovert or because I’m tired and needy, because I’m not good at small talk or because I can’t handle one more thing. My capacity is only so much, but for some reason, I always think it should be more. In my mind I should always be what I’m not and what I actually am is not good enough.

These days come when I’m tired and need time to reflect and recharge, which is quite ironic.  Instead of embracing who I am and embracing what I need, I fight against it by pushing myself more. It's a deadly cycle.

I doubt I’m the only one who does this. It seems it’s an innate fleshly drive in women to always try to be something we aren’t.

Isn’t this applicable to other areas of life? Like parenting, for instance. When we tell ourselves we are bad moms (or am I the only one?), yet it is just a general feeling and not an actual conviction from God, what are we saying? We’re measuring ourselves next to some sort of unattainable standard or we’re comparing ourselves to the strengths and gifts in other mothers. We’re saying that our strengths are weaknesses and our weaknesses should be our actual strengths.
The trouble is we assign different values to various personality traits and abilities so, instead of simply being faithful with the strengths we’ve been given, we think we have to have every strength and no weaknesses or God can’t use us. And when we fall or a weakness comes through, we immediately say to ourselves, “I am a bad (fill-in-your-blank).”

What would happen, I wonder, if we embraced our strengths and our weaknesses? What if we didn’t try to push ourselves through our weaknesses but focused instead on being good stewards of our strengths?

I went to church that day with a full awareness that I’m weak in a lot of ways, but that, yes, God is using my strengths. I don’t have to be what someone else is or do what someone else does to be considered a good pastor’s wife. In the eyes of others, this may make me a bad pastor’s wife, and I just might end up being a disappointment to them. But in God’s eyes, I am a “good” pastor’s wife when I acknowledge my weaknesses and focus on faithfully using the strengths He’s given me.

There's freedom in that. And there's freedom that because of the cross, because God sees Christ when He looks at us (if we are in Him), we are never a disappointment to the One who matters most.

What are your strengths as a minister and leader, a wife, and a mom? How are you faithfully stewarding those strengths today?