I am not sure what I thought my late thirties would be marked by. I anticipated being a soccer mom, paying bills, and steering both a car and a grocery cart regularly; however, I never imagined the amount of powerlessness I would feel at this age.
As a child, when I saw people in the middle years, I saw certain and secure adults. However, now that I somehow find myself in said demographic, I realize how deeply these middle years are marked by a deepening realization of limitations and weaknesses.
I imagined that making droves of decisions daily and being in charge of families, business, and churches were privileges entrusted to the powerful. I am now realizing that these privileges only expose a deeper sense of powerlessness and dependence in those who are entrusted with them.
This past week, despite my repeated attempts to halt the terribly contagious stomach flu with Lysol sprays, bottles of bleach, and meticulous hand washing, I was reminded of my powerlessness over microscopic germs.
My boys are getting older, which means that we are in the process of attempting to wisely and incrementally lengthen their leashes. They are trying out for sport teams where real risk offers both real reward and real rejection. They are choosing friends, tracking their own grades, and being faced with moral decisions. In all of this, I wake up daily being hit by fresh waves of powerlessness.
As a Women’s Ministry director at a fairly large church, I experience similar waves of powerlessness. I can buy all the cute napkins and have all the creamers, but I cannot make the women whom I have grown to love hunger for God and walk in righteousness. I can set the living and active Word of God before them, but I cannot change them.
Lest I sound too despairing, I am beginning to welcome this powerlessness as a driver towards the all-powerful One. As I continue to catch glimpses of my insufficiency, I have a choice to make regarding the regular realizations of my utter powerlessness: I can either let the facts paralyze me or I can allow them to drive me to prayerfulness.
Rather than being utterly paralyzed by daily doses of powerlessness, weakness, and limitations, I am learning to lean all my weight unto the Rock that does not move. Facing my powerlessness is an invitation to seek the face of God who cares far more about the people entrusted to me and under my keeping than I ever could.
Power made perfect in weakness is beginning to be stretched from a postage-stamp-sized reality to my permanent address. I wonder if the Apostle Paul felt like he was unraveling as he grew more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
After all, he had lived a life of zeal, confidence, drivenness, and surety. He knew what it was to be on top of life and at the top of the pack.
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6.
And then Christ grabbed a hold of Him, stripping him of all confidence in the flesh, but equipping him with an eternally founded confidence in Christ.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6.
Paul, who might have been on the cover of the Hebrew version of Forbes magazine as an up-and-coming leader, spent his life after conversion as a man quick to admit his powerlessness. An amazing orator, he spent his life preaching the power of Christ, not the power of his own word play.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Powerlessness alone will lead to paralyzation. But powerlessness turned into prayerful dependence will enable a faithful life proclaiming our powerful God.
In light of a God whose Word calms the sea, I will fight to welcome the waves of powerlessness. Bring it on, late-thirties and early forties. Your exposure of my powerlessness will push me deeper into the lap of the Powerful One.