Waiting in weakness
I have got to be doing something. My mind is always “on.” I invent things to do just to stay busy and engaged. When I’m coerced to sit, time drags. Five minutes into being still seems like 20 minutes. When I do sit, my mind runs through a field of “what ifs. . .” and “why nots. . .”
“What if I move the bed of irises to the other side of the yard?” “Why not clear the wooded area behind the house to make more yard space for the grands?” “What if Kathy and I take a trip during the Thanksgiving holiday?” “Why not take part in the church’s next mission trip?”
In my relationships, I love to do, too. A dad’s solution to one of my children’s problems puts a smile on my face. Having the right answer to a dilemma that a friend faces gives me a feeling that I have helped. Reaching into my wallet to make a daunting situation less troublesome for a neighbor or stanger is a good solution. Going to help someone by swinging a hammer or sawing a board is satisfying.
My first step into Christian ministry was as a youth director. I was young with long lists of “what ifs. . .” and “why nots. . .” My pastor Ben Atkinson and I would meet monthly to review the activities I was planning and discuss my ideas. Almost without taking a breath, I ran down the list and each time I looked up to see Brother Ben with a soft smile on his face. His response was always the same: “That all sounds fine, Jim, but remember, the greatest thing you can do is just be. Just share Jesus.”
For a “do” guy, that was harder than you would think. I mean, I believe sharing Jesus was most important, but how would I “do” that.
Danny and Ginger Mallette were great youth parents. They were active and supported the youth ministry in every way they could. Their son Trey was a good kid. We joked around with each other and he was attentive in Bible study. It was pretty ideal.
Kathy called from the kitchen where the phone hung on the wall. She told me to come quickly. Danny had suffered a massive brain aneurism and was not expected to live.
I knew what to do. I had to go.
I walked into the hospital waiting room and it was full with friends and loved ones. I placed my fist on my hips and looked to see what could be done, but for the first time in my ministry, there was nothing I could do.
The doctors came out to let Ginger know that they had done all they could and time would tell. We gathered around and prayed together. Danny’s life was in God’s hands.
Ginger and Trey’s hearts were breaking. I sat next to Trey in silence and waited – doing nothing. I would just “be” and learn the ministry of presence.
Kathy has been teaching high school students for nearly 14 years. During this time, I have helped anyway I could. I have decorated bulletin boards. I have carried boxes up flights of stairs. I have scrubbed the tops of students’ desks with disinfectant and then scrapped gum from beneath them.
At best, being a public school teacher is difficult and teachers can use a helping hand. There’s always plenty to do.
But there are days when I can “do” nothing to help Kathy. The trauma she experiences can almost be too much – a brutal fight between students in the commons area, explosive profanity in the hallway, an obstinate student intent on keeping other students from learning.
There are the days she is broken hearted because a student’s father died from cancer or because a student is struggling in her class because he works until the early morning hours to make money to help feed his siblings.
At these times, I can only sit silently beside her, not accepting failure because we cannot “do,” but instead we wait in our weakness, depending on God and relying on Him to overcome what we face.
God’s power works best in our weakness. We are but clay jars. The Apostle Paul writes that he gladly accepted his weakness “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Danny miraculously recovered. Kathy rises another day and returns to her students, a testament to God’s grace. Paul writes: “This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
And He is glorified.