Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me…
[I asked the Lord to take it away three different times.] But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses….
–2 Corinthians 12:7b-9a NET
Have you ever been in a position where, no matter how hard you try, there are certain things just beyond your grasp? No matter how hard I worked out in the weight room (years ago now), there was a plateau I simply could not get past. My body is not designed to compete with Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s an easy dream to give up. But what about the ones not so easy to let go of? Is it possible to let go of those dreams we truly believe will make a difference in our lives?
What would it look like to have everything we thought defined us stripped away leaving only the simplicity of contentment? What might it look like to actually relax in God’s large-and-in-charge-ness where something deep within is truly content? Faced with a God-given “thorn in the flesh” (an invitation into something more, if you will), Paul found himself needing to settle into a contentment he had not before embraced (2 Corinthians 12:10). In fact, amazingly, he was actually glad for the limitation because it provided the opportunity for the power of Christ to be more evident in his life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity and contentment lately. I’ve had to. My invitation into limitation came in the form of a disease-carrying mosquito that disrupted my whole system. Each day’s challenge comes down to the expenditure of energy (which can be defined emotionally as much as physically). If I give it here, I can’t give it there. My body and emotions betray me now. I can’t keep up like I used to. On some days, I fight it. On others, I have no choice but to embrace limitation—I have no choice except to be content with a new simplicity.
This fleeting place of contentment in simplicity opens my heart to an awareness of presence—His presence. There, I get glimpses of a deeper invitation that may be as disruptive as the first, but far less off-putting. In this place of presence, I’m far more aware of a desire to sit with Him, connect with Him, and to enjoy His enjoyment of me. Little else matters as much at that point.
I’m not sure I’m glad for the “weakness” yet—certainly not like Paul. But I am grateful for the invitation to see past the swirl of distractions to a simpler place to live. May it be so more and more for both you and me.
ACTION: Invitations into simplicity come in all forms—floods, doves, burning bushes, plagues, prophets, stars, a quiet voice, earthquakes that open jails, beatings, and even mosquitos. Upon reflection, list some of your invitations. Which of these have you embraced? Which ones have you fought or ignored? Of those you embraced, how would you describe those deeper invitations into the heart of God? What are you discovering there?