(Jesus) My strength comes into its own in your weakness...(Paul) Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size - abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (The Message)
I got to live this experience out in a strange way last night.
Most Wednesday nights, I have the opportunity to go out with a group of fellow believers and minister to the homeless of Jackson. It is always interesting and never the same experience. Some nights we have moments of intense ministry one-on-one with people we meet and other nights we end up seeing a lot of people but don't get much time to minister to individuals. Sometimes there is a healthy mix of ministry opportunities.
Last night was one of those...we saw a lot of people but had some moments of intense one-on-one ministry in the midst of the crowds.
I wasn't necessarily feeling like a "super-Christian"...you know - ready to charge into hell with a water-pistol, but I was excited about meeting people and having the opportunity to share Christ with them. We had already been to a couple of our "hotspots" and were at our last stop of the evening. I was talking with this guy, who was a little on the confrontational side. He said it was his birthday. We had already given him some food and a t-shirt, but he wanted another one. I was trying to figure out how to talk with the guy, so I told him I would get him another shirt. We were just about out of all our supplies, but I knew there were some small t-shirts left. It wouldn't have fit him, but I was going to give him one anyway. So I asked him to wait and turned to head back to the van, when all of a sudden I find myself plunging towards the gravel/concrete sidewalk, hands first. I busted my tail so bad....and tore up the palms of my hands.
The only thing really hurt was my pride. Well, that's not true...my palms hurt, too - especially when I washed them off with cold water and then doused them with some anti-bacterial handwash. Yikes!
But the coolest thing happened. This guy I was talking to, Patrick, came running over and tried to help me up. Then he offered the t-shirt we had given him for me to wipe my hands on. I told him I was ok (and I was except for my bloody palms) and we began to talk. God used my moment of weakness to soften this guy's heart so that I could talk to him about God. It started when he told me "You have to be careful out here - it's dangerous and hard!" We talked about the scars he had from his life on the streets and I began to share Christ with him. In my mind, I was thinking about the placement of the scars on my palms and the scars Christ has on his palms. I wanted to relay to Patrick that there is One who knows all about scars, but the conversation didn't go that way. I did get to pray with Patrick and I just knew that God was planting seeds in his heart. I told him I wanted to see him in Heaven when this world was all said and done. He agreed. I told him not to wait too long to do things God's way - none of us are promised tomorrow.
It was a neat experience. I'm always amazed at how God uses everything to speak to us - if we just listen. I want to hear all He is speaking to me. More importantly, if it takes me having moments of weakness for someone else to see God's strength, I'm willing to pay the price.
The funny thing was this - as I was "cleaning" my hands (as best as one can without running water and peroxide) some of the guys on my team were standing there with me. When I put the anti-bacterial handwash on my palms, one of them mentioned something about "suffering for the Gospel's sake" and "counting it all joy". I wanted to complain about the pain in my hands, but as I looked at my palms, enduring the burning pain of alcohol in my open wounds, I was reminded of what my Savior suffered on the cross for me. At that moment, I was filled with a sense of joy I cannot explain and the pain faded away into nothingness. My suffering was/is nothing...but the fact that God could use an embarrassing moment and my pain to reach someone else was overwhelming. Still is.
But that's why when I am weak...He is strong.