Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weakness As A Gift (Christmas Post #2 2011)

Most of us hate weakness. We squirm and we get frustrated when we are faced with a weakness in ourselves, and we will do almost anything to change the situation.

We buy self-help books, we try counselling, we try a new weight plan, we pray differently. And none of these things are necessarily bad. But it’s remarkable how we try to immediately get rid of our weaknesses.

Or perhaps we try to drown our weaknesses out. We turn on the TV, we spend 5 hours at a time online. We listen to music almost every second of the day – just so we don’t have to look at our weaknesses.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if our weaknesses can be a gift? Our weaknesses, whatever they may be – physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual, can be things that usher us into a new and even better way of life. Of course this doesn’t mean we will necessarily be happy about it, not at all; a few choice epithets may be used when we finally sit down and face our weaknesses.  But yes, they can lead us to a different way of life.

And a lot of the time is it the Universe/The Divine bringing about exactly what we have always wanted but just haven’t consciously worked toward achieving. 

Let me give you an example from my life. For many years I had the thought planted in my mind that I really didn’t want gifts to be a big deal at Christmastime, either buying or receiving them. I wanted Christmas to be about family and friends, and the feeling you get when you attend a Christmas Eve service. I wanted it to be about Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart and egg nog.  Still, I went on buying and buying. Now, I should say that I did not do this begrudgingly, I like giving gifts, but it’s always been a thought of mine that “Why do people spend way too much money which they don’t have on Christmas presents that they  can’t afford at ONE time of the year, when we claim that that’s not what Christmas is about, and when we could instead just be concentrating on caring for each other the other 364 days of the year?”

 I kept buying and buying.

But now the last 2 years the Divine has brought me to a situation where I have very little money and simply can not buy presents – I mean any presents. Now, I wish that I could give at least one gift to the people I care about, and I will enjoy it when I receive a few gifts this Christmas, but I am quickly getting out of the rat race of gift-buying at Christmastime.

And to many this would seem like a weakness. “What do you mean you can’t afford to take your friend out for a nice dinner?” “What do you mean you can’t afford this or that?”  But really, it is a gift. If I have wanted to develop kindness, love, sincerity, peacefulness in life for a long time, there’s a good chance that material things have been distracting me. 

Now, am I embracing this new, pared-down lifestyle?  I’d be lying if I said I am thrilled about it yet. But I believe that this financial “weakness” – along with the mental challenges of major depression -  can actually be seen as gifts. They are gifts that are saying, “Mark Andrew, what kind of person do you really want to be? Hold on for a minute. Do you really want to be less materialistic? Do you really want to be less busy?  Well, kiddo, here’s your chance. It may hurt like hell for quite awhile as you get used to it, but here you go.”

So the next time you look a mirror at yourself and see a perceived weakness, maybe you should ask yourself if it really is a gift in disguise, and if there is a positive, life-enhancing lesson to be learned.

This Christmas, a gift that I am slowly unwrapping within my mind and heart and learning to embrace is the gift of weakness.

 ‎"Where is peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest, the peace which is not of this world is hidden." ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen