In college, I lived comfortably in the center of all my strengths. I was a student, which called upon my skills in organization and time-management, and rewarded my enthusiasm for bookish pursuits. More than that, I was an English major, so I was only taking classes I loved. I was single, which allowed me to organize my time altogether selfishly; this meant going to bed early and waking early for long runs and extended quiet times of prayer and devotion. I was part of a great group of Nav friends who lived on campus and did ridiculously dorky things like assemble puzzles and play board games. These were my kind of people! I filled my days with activities I was interested in and friends I enjoyed. I cleaned up after myself. Things stayed where I put them.
As a mom, I find myself living dangerously close to the edge of my capabilities. I call myself stupid about a thousand times a day. I feel stupid about a million times a day. I lose my patience. I lose my perspective. I lose my keys.
Suddenly I realize all the things I don’t know how to do–things like decorating a house or preserving all of those tomatoes my neighbor keeps bringing me. Things I never had to do in college.
I spent my whole life refusing to try things that made me feel incompetent. Whenever possible, I stayed comfortably within my own strengths, rarely straying so far as to try things at which I was merely capable and NEVER into territory where I could potentially fail. But here I am, quite far from my strengths and on the very edge of mere capability, forced to confront my own weaknesses and failures.
I would never have traveled here on my own, but motherhood has set me down on the outer edges of my ability. From here, I can see the very limits of my own patience, my own wisdom, my own abilities. Believe me, I have reached these limits more than once. Yet, imagine my surprise when I discovered that when I reach my limits, the grace of Christ kicks in. I have discovered for myself what Paul (Bible Paul, not my husband) has been trying to tell me for years: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
I have discovered that where my own strengths end, at the very outermost edge of what I feel I am capable of handling, Christ has already provided his own strength for me so that the edges blur and it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. Suddenly, there is no edge, no dangerous precipice over which I can fall into full-blown, self-centered rage. I can stop fearing what happens when I finally run out of patience.
Allow me to brag of my weaknesses: I am impatient! I am selfish! I am tired! And yet I never run out of patience, selflessness, and energy!
I can take new delight in my weaknesses, for they have taught me not to rely on my own strength at all. Out here where I live, I simply can’t. But it doesn’t matter anymore because I have not moved from the center of strength after all.