Monday, February 23, 2009

All the King's Horses

I've always liked this nursery rhyme. I fancied the idea of horses and soldiers trying to piece together a shattered egg. But even as a child I couldn't help wonder: What was Humpty Dumpty doing up on that wall in the first place? Before he ever hoisted his delicate little orb onto that precipice he was doomed. Did he think he was covered in titanium instead of a calcified shell as thin as paper?

Like Humpty, we are all far more fragile that we like to suppose. Reality: We are born vulnerable and we remain so as long as we wear this cloak of human flesh. And, dare I suggest, not only do we arrive on the planet weak...but also broken?

In our social economy, image is everything. We value self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-reliance. We eschew words like dependent, needy, weak, or disabled and yet, in the secret place of our hearts we know those describe us. So we pretend. We cover up. We hide. We suffer in silence to protect our precious image—the one that no one actually believes; hoping others are too busy with their own facades to notice our crumbling masks.

I'm convinced some of the worst of the great pretenders are people who call themselves followers of Christ. Because we are associated with the One Perfect Man, how dare we besmudge His name by revealing…flaws. And I wonder, could this be the very reason many unbelievers are repelled by our "testimonies of faith?" What if, instead of promoting my own false persona, I was honest with you and told you all about what really goes on in my life? What if I disarmed all critics by telling the truth? What if I dispelled the Model Family Myth I hoped you believed and told you that our sweet, little family has been touched by anxiety and depression, addictions, learning disabilities, rebellion, chronic illness, autism, lying, cheating (and probably most of the same temptations as you and your family have experienced behind your carefully guarded doors?) What would you think of me then? Would you be shocked? Or relieved...

Three times the apostle Paul begged God to remove something from his life that he referred to as his "thorn in the flesh." Though theologians have debated for centuries what this thorn was, it remains a mystery. Paul said that, after the third time he talked to God about it, God answered him:

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Cor. 12:9)

Wait…what?! God wasn't going to remove Paul's difficulty and let him live a victorious, carefree, example-to-others kind of life? No. God told Paul, "My grace is all you need in this challenge. My power shows up best against the backdrop of your weakness." So Paul concluded that his weaknesses were something to boast about and broadcast. Not his academic credentials or his impressive resume or his noble heritage—his weaknesses, his shortcomings, his frailty. Because then, and only then, could the power of God reside in him and be perfectly displayed. Only then would God get the credit for a well-lived life.

All of you who share my Humpty Dumpty Complex would do well to bear in mind another famous quote from our friend Paul who said:

"We have this treasure in a fragile vase of clay, in order that the surpassing greatness of the power may be seen to belong to God, and not to originate in us." (2 Cor. 4:7)

We can pray all day long, "Show me your glory, God! Let others see your light through me." Problem? God is not in the habit of sharing glory with vain, self-promoting creatures. He wants us to acknowledge that we are nothing more than clay vases; broken, cracked—even disposable—save for one thing: We contain the unspeakable treasure of His power. God did not choose golden goblets studded in precious stones to display His greatness. Like Adam, whom He formed of dust, God chose dirt—human DNA wrapped in skin—and blew into it a glorious fortune that could never have originated with the vessel that holds it.

So let's start with some honesty, shall we? Is it possible to learn to rethink what strength really looks like? Me, sitting around on a brick wall, wrapped in nothing but my own eggshell, ready for God to display His power through my imperfect, broken-beyond-repair life—no longer promoting myself as the answer to anything but accrediting Christ, the face of God, whose treasure I hold. Who else can make sense of the puzzle pieces of my life and produce a beautiful picture? That beats the heck out of anything Mother Goose ever said and, the best part? It's not a fairy tale.


  1. I needed this today.
    Thanks, Dawn.
    Melissa Fronning

  2. Dawn-

    It gets hard living that life, day after day, year after year. I know that there are some days if I wonder if the real me is still stuck down there somewhere, where I have pushed her out of the way in my quest for "Christian". Thank you for bringing this convicting, beautiful thought before us.