Working in a maximum security prison with hardened inmates I get to see a lot of things. One of the things I see regularly is men walking around with walls so thick that it would take bulldozers to penetrate those walls. Yet, when I bring those same men in my office to speak with them the frailties begin to shine through. The walls are really a front because in the prison setting showing any sign of weakness could mean life or death.
My point is that while many put on strong fronts mankind is extremely frail. We are frail because we need to realize that we exist because of the strength of God that resides in those of us that rely and trust on the Lord of our Salvation. Despite this there are some who see themselves as strong and that they should be strong for those around them. This idea seems strange because it suggests that one should live outside what he is in order to present as something he is not. Let me explain.
My work as chaplain means that I have to deal with people in all stages of life. One stage is sickness. You see, very recently a young man, not yet in his thirties, suffered a stroke while on the unit. This young man was rushed to a local hospital and I was notified. I quickly notified the family of the disease ridden young man. From there I determined I would visit him in the hospital and find a way to authorize a family visit. The warden was quick to approve the family visit and my plans to visit were being finalized.
At the appointed time I went to the hospital. Family members were there before I was. The young man, while conscious, was not very responsive. Family members and friends were apparently broken as they saw the helplessness of the young man and their own weaknesses. Out of well meaning one family friend advised the mother to be strong for the young man. This, in my view, is the problem. The mother had no ability to be strong. Her young son was lying in a hospital bed with no sure prognosis. He was moving yet not communicating. A young man who might have been thought strong was quite frail and frail indeed.
The mother could not contain herself. She was unable to stay in the room. He son was not only a ward of the state but also a ward to the trouble that rests in his body. She would not be comforted. She could not be comforted. Her human frailty began to break forth the more she considered the dire state of the son she loved. It was not within her to be strong. It was only within her to weep and morn. Her weakness allowed her to be human.
When we consider biblical characters Paul might be said to be amongst the strongest. His evangelical tours proved to be more than undetermined weak people could consider. The strength of Paul was enough to move him forward. The weakness of Paul allowed him to trust God. This idea of the weakness of Paul is amplified in II Corinthians chapter twelve. Paul’s continued reliance on God caused him to realize just how weak he was. It was also opportunity for the strength of God to be realized in frail man.
With this, I would encourage all to lay aside the idea that we should be strong on every count. As I left that hospital room and headed back to the prison my weakness began to come forth. It was all I could do not to cry. This was coupled with the fact that the day before I attended the funeral of a family member of a co-worker. Yes there are times when we must reach down in order to pull some who have given in to weakness. Even so, we are only able to pull because of the strength of God that resides in us. Do not be ashamed of the frailty of humanity. Instead, in frailty allow the strength of God to pour in and through you.