Originally published Tuesday, 11 February 2014.
It was dark outside and for once, I was actually alone in the car. I can’t remember where I was coming from or how I managed to be driving without babies in the back seat, but I can clearly remember turning into our neighborhood as the final song on Invisible Empires began to play. It had recently been given to me as a gift and I was using the ride home to scan the eleven tracks that were new to me.
As I turned the wheel to the left, a few chords came across the piano followed by these words, “I’m not every woman, it’s not all in me.” I heard myself take a quick, hard breath and I think I held it until she reached the chorus, when she sang, “I’m finite, I come to end. I’m finite, I cannot pretend.” I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by a single line of lyrics. To say that her words pierced my heart would be an understated description of my experience. I pulled into my driveway and cried tears of heavy relief. I knew I couldn’t be everything, but that hadn’t stopped me from trying. I felt crushed under the weight of self-induced, unhealthy expectations, and with one song I was reminded of freedom.
When Nicole invited me to contribute a couple thoughts leading up to un/defined, I began to think about my limitations. If I’m going to explore the limitless possibilities of God’s greater calling on my life, I have to take a transparent look at my own weaknesses.
Sara Groves wrote her song Finite as a direct response to Chaka Khan’s hit, I’m Every Woman. While most of us don’t believe we actually possess everything within ourselves, we at least try to hint at all points along the spectrum of “successful” womanhood, taking on guilt as we are met with increasing limitations.
Several years ago, when I began the work of developing healthy boundaries, the hardest questions I had to answer were related to what fell outside of me – what wasn’t in my control…what wasn’t I naturally good at….what wasn’t I equipped for…what wasn’t mine to fix…those questions pointed to my weaknesses and left me uncomfortable.
The process of acceptance freed me from the pressure to make my story look like the stories of other women. It meant grace and deep gratitude. This isn’t a new idea though. Many world religions are filled with similar philosophies. If we stop here, we are missing the bigger picture of God’s grace and purpose. When we can acknowledge our weaknesses, we stop trying to fill them by our own abilities and start letting God meet us there, bringing with Him a power we never imagined possible.
Throughout the Old and New Testament, we find that God is not concerned with what we can or cannot do. He has a tendency to walk right into the spaces we feel most inadequate and write beautiful narratives using the margins in which we feel unqualified. He certainly works through our gifts, but He also works through our brokenness. In the places we didn’t believe could be used, the parts of our stories we didn’t believe could to be redeemed, He pens incredible messages of hope. He’s the Master of that.
When Moses stood before the burning bush and heard the calling God had for him, he knew it was going to require the use of skills he did not possess. He immediately responded with, “Who am I?” The LORD’s response was simple – “I will be with you.” Over the next 26 verses, Moses questioned God’s choosing him four times. When he cited his inability to speak eloquently, God responded with, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
God wasn’t concerned with Moses’ limitations, because at the end of the day, it wasn’t going to be about Moses. It was about the power of a great God determined to rescue His people. From what we read, between the time Moses left this conversation to the moment they came out on the other side of the Red Sea, his faith in God’s ability to overcome his personal weaknesses was unwavering. When doubts and fears resurfaced, God once again reassured him that His presence was all he needed (Exodus 33:12-14). Accepting our limitations frees us from the pressure that tells us we are not enough and calls us into life through the grace that promises He makes us more than enough. Paul didn’t simply acknowledge his weaknesses. He rejoiced in them because they highlighted God’s strength (1 Corinthians 2:3; 12:8-10).
Let us rejoice in the ways we are the unqualified underdogs, because God has done some unbelievable things through the underdogs. We are finite woman worshiping an infinite God. Releasing ourselves from the pressure of perceived perfection allows us to rest in the freedom of knowing God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we begin here, transparent in our mess and clinging to faith in His grace, I believe we will be amazed by the powerful stories He has to tell. And with each new chapter, we will not say, “I can do everything on my own,” rather we will know, “God is so very good.”