Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians chapters 12 and 13, as well as Galatians 1.
What is at least one thing you are self-conscious about? I have a few. One is my bow legs. As I grew, they got worse and classmates poked fun at me. I have to laugh though because my last name is Bandy and if you look up “bandy” in the dictionary it says “bandy-legged” means bow legged! It only stands to make sense that my brother, dad, and I have been smitten with this. The other item I became self-conscious about at a young age is my skinniness and lack of physical strength. I remember getting anxious about going to the weight room for football. I didn’t want my teammates and coaches to know that the kid who was competing for starting quarterback could hardly lift the bar in bench press. As I have shared before, I then broke my arm three times in two seasons. That obviously did not do anything to stop the jokes about my frailty but only poured gasoline on the fire.
Now that I’m an adult and married with four children, I should be past this right? To be straight, it’s still not easy. As a man, husband, and father, we still often measure ourselves by our physical strength and our masculinity. I should be able to lift or move something on my own, right…or use my physical skills to fix something around the house? That’s maybe a 3rd complex I won’t go into today..haha. We should also be able to physically protect our family with our strength if our family was ever in danger.
I have previously written about my spinal stenosis and ironically as I write this, I am getting ready to have my 5th surgery in a few weeks. As I’ve shared in the past, I have permanent loss of strength (about half) in my right hand, as well as motor skills, and now have had more surgeries including the one coming up to keep the same thing from happening to my left arm/hand. As you can tell, getting away from self-consciousness about my lack of strength because I now am old, no longer play sports, and work a job where I mostly use my mind and relationship skills is still not easy because now I still struggle with some of the basic things I want to do around the house for my family. I know it’s silly to be concerned about my physical strength at this point. Paul even tells us 1 Corinthians 16:13 physical strength is not what makes a man a man. He says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
I don’t believe in coincidences, so I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 where Paul talks about an affliction he was given was part of my assigned verses as I prepare for my next surgery.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul states that his affliction (we are not sure what that affliction is) keeps him from being conceited. Is this the case for me? I don’t know..maybe. I know one thing..I’ve been blessed in my life with some things I don’t deserve that unfortunately not everyone has…loving parents, a loving and supportive wife, four healthy kids, financial blessings, and a stable career I love. If I didn’t have some “thorn(s),” would I even think I needed God? I realize God had His hand on my life when he led me into the field of financial planning, rather than dentistry/orthodontics, my original dream career, which I would not be able to do with my hand issues. If these surgeries were not possible due to modern medicine, I would be like the man at the pool in the Bible..paralyzed eventually. He led me to a surgeon and surgery options by His grace that were better than what Mayo even proposed. I can still throw a ball with my kids and type on a keyboard which is needed in my career. I’m extremely grateful for His provision through all of this. I’m also grateful these challenges are mine and not my wife or my children.
Most importantly, as I look down and see my puny, almost withered right hand..I’m reminded what Paul says here in 2 Corinthians 13:10. When I am weak, then I am strong, and His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in my weakness. It’s all that matters and all I really need in life. Ironically, another Paul, my good friend and Christ follower Paul Kelly, stated the following to me recently in a text message dialogue after a sermon…
“My desire to be the best version of myself will never be good enough. So..it’s in our weaknesses that God unveils our greatest gifts..His love is incomprehensively good and although I’ll never be worth it…I will forever be grateful.”
Thank you, Paul…no truer words can be said.