By Diana Gee
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” –1 Corinthians 1:27-29
I don’t like being weak. One of my earliest recollections of weakness was when I was a toddler. I wetted my pants while someone else was in the bathroom. I stood in the hallway crying in front of the bathroom door. And instead of being sympathetic, my mother gave me a scolding. It was so unfair! I couldn’t control it. Why was I being punished?
My other recollection of feeling weak happened a few years later. A girl whom I once played with suddenly decided to make fun of me, to my face. I felt foolish and ashamed. I thought we were friends but she decided that we weren’t. There wasn’t anything I could do or say to change that.
Nowadays, I feel the weakest when I suffer loss, or when I’m at a loss in the face of suffering. The words of comfort don’t come. My understanding of Providence ceases, and pain drills holes in this thin layer of confidence I wear. I don’t enjoy weakness.
No, I’d rather have the power to choose. I’d rather have the power to avoid painful situations altogether. I don’t want to be reminded of my frailty, of my lowliness, of my ability to be hurt whether emotionally or physically. Pain is pain, but feeling weak is debilitating. Or is it?
In his recent book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell argues for a reinterpretation of what we consider are advantages or disadvantages in life. So often what we think are insurmountable circumstances become the very thing that enables some people to overcome and succeed. And the things that give us a step up in life actually become our Achilles heel. So the dyslexic learns to compensate for their weakness by excelling in memorization. And military bombardment can actually lead to creating more courageous people (as was the case for Londoners in WWII).
Scripture corroborates the theory, and one needs not look further than Jesus himself. Born into poverty and homelessness, and shortly thereafter living as a refugee and foreigner in Egypt, Jesus was no stranger to weakness. Yet he was not without privilege either. He was still a Jewish man living in a culture that privileges Jewish men. But he used those privileges not only to gain access to places of power, but also to lift up those without it, those living on the margins of early Jewish society. Why? I suppose he had a mandate from his Heavenly Father (Lk 4:18-19). But I suspect it’s because he identified with disadvantaged. He had seen life through the lens of the marginalized, and he stood with them (Lk 6:20-22).
Eventually, out of fear of my mother, I learned to develop urinary continence and keep my bottoms dry. And experiences with mean girls taught me to find better friends and to be a good one. Suffering still feels like a pile of refuse, but I’ve learned to have compassion for myself and for others, which most would agree is a necessary virtue for any pastor.
I’m not wishing bad circumstances on anyone, but we have to admit that there are some lessons that cannot be learned if we were always wise, rich, and strong. And the fact that God chooses the foolish things of the world to bring about redemptive work brings great comfort to me. I may not have chosen my disadvantages in life, but God has, can, and will use them for His purposes. And if that’s the case, I can live with feeling weak even while disliking it. And I am the better for it.
Diana Gee is the Associate Pastor of Faith Community Christian Church in Vancouver, Canada. Diana is a second-generation, Chinese Canadian, born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is trained as a structural engineer (B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, University of Alberta) and has worked in consulting for six years. She completed her master’s degree at Regent College (M.Div.) in 2011.