The clarity of a moment can sometimes be attributed to great reading or a wise elder offering sage advice, but for the last couple of years I have been mesmerized by the words of my daughter. Granted, she talks more than any child I’ve ever met so there’s some probability at work in the equation, but she has a way of putting things that creates open doors for my soul.
We ate with friends last night at a grease ball restaurant, and as is my custom we were the last people to leave of the crowd we were with. My daughter was attempting to hold the heavy glass door for us that led outside. For clarity, the closing mechanism is quite heavy and I know from experience that the door doesn’t swing open, it takes a great deal of effort to pull it completely open. So she was working at this door, trying her best to shove all 30 pounds of her frame into the task of clearing the path for the family’s departure. My wife, reaching high above my daughter, assisted in getting door open enough for us to walk through and she told Karsten, my daughter, “that was a heavy door wasn’t it?” To which my daughter replied, “we pushed with all our life.” Obviously she was trying to use the expression, “with all our might”, but it came out differently, more beautiful, more meaningful.
With all our life.
I have to wonder if there isn’t something deeper there. I know that I, like many others, am accustomed to pushing through life and trials and pain and happiness and love and loss and melancholy with all of my might. I attempt to leverage my strengths and my abilities to keep pushing doors open. Sometimes its easier than other times, but all the time I have a tendency to lean on my own strength and understanding. I say all of this not to downplay the effort that we are to give in life, but to perhaps look at things from a different angle. You could say the 3 foot 3 inch perspective.
It dawned on me, after Karsten had said those words, that what we do when we merely “push with all our might” is limit what we are able to do. The problem for us, at least in part, is that we look at our lives from the standpoint of strengths and weaknesses. We see opportunities coming for us almost exclusively in those areas where we have significant, or at least sufficient, might. We gravitate to those places and activities that play to our strengths, and sometimes to a fault. Bottom line, when we live life pushing with all of our might, we are only living part of a life.
There is this entire other spectrum of our existence that dwells beyond the reach of our abilities. I would dare say that there is a trove of treasures lying in wait along the pathways of our weaknesses and even failures. It’s a strange idea that we might have to push into the places where we are weakest to find some of the beauties in life, but I don’t believe it’s too far away from Biblical theology. How many people did God call to greatness through places of weakness or unpreparedness? Abraham got called to go without a destination, there was no star on his map to signify his destination’s end, so he existed perpetually “treading land”. Moses had jacked up speech issues and God told him to go have a chat with the most powerful ruler in the world about letting a million members of his workforce take off for a few hundred years. Job’s entire story is about a man of strength and character being tested to the point of recognizing that he actually had doubts, anger, and pride living inside of him; all so God could grow him even more through special revelation. Peter was called by Jesus to be an integral part in the foundation of His post ascension church…Peter. Peter who couldn’t seem to nail anything down for very long was asked to become one of the human load-bearing points of the organism/organization that would bring eternal change to the globe…right, that makes sense. Paul’s story is one of a strong man being made aware of his weakness due to his failures and then becoming infinitely stronger because of his weaknesses. And the list goes on with Gideon, Jeremiah, Hosea, John the Baptizer, etc…
When we stop pushing with all of our might and start pushing with all of our life we begin to allow God to not only use our successes but our failures to teach us, grow us, and make us effective agents of His kingdom’s advance in the world. If we are only as useful as our own might then are we really all that useful? If God is waiting on us to master something in order to use us, will we ever really be used?
In Acts 17 Paul is talking to the philosophers in Athens and he makes this startling statement:
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
The spirit of the language when he says “that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward him” is that of a person fumbling around in the dark looking for something, not a determined, plotted journey. Paul told them that God set boundaries and limits, but He also turns the lights off and leaves us to trip and stumble over the furniture and bump into the walls sometimes as we search for Him. This is not an issue of cruelty but of relationship. Any parent that hasn’t waited around a dark corner to scare the living goo out of their child and then grab them up and hug them and laugh like loons has one more bucket list item to accomplish.
Perhaps it is in those moments when we recognize our failure to find Him, or even our ability to keep looking, that He steps forward and embraces us. Does it surprise us? Yes. Does it startle us. Absolutely. Does it warm us and give us a reference point and help us to more aptly trust Him? Without doubt. Why? Because if the biggest monster that waits in the dark is the most loving Father to ever exist, how can anything else about the dark really frighten us? He’s in the dark with us, in the places of our weakness where we left our might a long time before and we are only left with the reality of life. Might…life. Life…might.
I wonder if we have grown into a people so concerned with success that we aren’t satisfied with reaching our goal unless we have accomplished what we think we need to. The interesting thing about that night my daughter was trying to open the door was that she couldn’t do it. She was never going to get that big piece of glass and metal swung open, but her mother reached above her and did the work. If Karsten had waited until she was strong enough, old enough, or big enough to successfully navigate that door on her own she would probably be in that dining room for the next 3 years. But instead of pushing with all of her might she pushed with all of her life, and her life includes the much stronger arms of her parents.
I would encourage us all to quit limiting ourselves to our might. We must push with all of our life, our life may depend on it.