Tag Archives: Weakness

Silence and Spiritual Authority

But Jesus remained silent.
Matthew 26:63 (NIV)

Just last week, on the 15th of April, the Major Leagues celebrated Jackie Robinson day just as it does every year. Every player in Major League Baseball wears Jackie Robinson’s number: 42. It was on April 15th, 1947 that Jackie Robinson  walked out onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and broke the color barrier in baseball.

This morning as I woke up in my hotel room I happened to have a documentary about Jackie Robinson playing in the background and reminded me of the familiar story. When Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Dodgers, brought Jackie to the major leagues he made Jackie promise that for three years he would not respond to the taunts, insults, and attacks that he would face as the first black man to play in the major leagues. Jackie agreed.

The abuse Jackie faced in those years is well documented. The treatment he received in opposing cities was unjust and unfair. Racial slurs and terrible insults by opposing teams and crowds rained down on him non-stop from batting practice until the last out of the game. Pitchers threw at his head intentionally. Runners intentionally spiked him with their cleats, opening up gashes on his legs. But true to his promise, Jackie remained silent. And, he played great baseball.

It seemed like a bit of synchronicity that this morning’s chapter documented Jesus standing before His enemies. They taunted Him. They falsely accused Him. They beat Him and they mocked Him. But true to what had been prophesied, Jesus remained silent. And, He fulfilled His mission.

I’m simply reminded this morning of the power of silence in the face of personal attacks and social adversity. Human nature and our own culture desires – even demands –  justice at an intimate, interpersonal level. If insulted, return the insult. If he talks smack to me, I’m going to dish it right back. If falsely accused, make a spirited defense. On the face of it, Jesus’ encouragement to “turn the other cheek” seems foolishly weak.

But it’s not.

It took incredible courage and spiritual strength for Jackie Robinson to remain silent those three long seasons. His silence was, in fact, an act of spiritual endurance while it took a tremendous physical and mental toll.

Turning the other cheek is not running away, slinking back, or cowering in fear. Turning the other cheek requires standing in, facing your enemy, and defiantly presenting him the opportunity to do it again. It reveals and highlights the injustice. It makes known the truth of the situation.

After three years of sticking to his promise, Jackie was released from his bargain with Branch Rickey. Then it was the wisdom of Solomon that took over. “There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak.” Three years of remaining silent before his enemies had earned Jackie Robinson the spiritual authority to be one of the greatest voices for civil rights and social change. Jackie Robinson Day continues that legacy each April 15th.

I find it ironic that Jackie Robinson Day fell between Good Friday and Easter Sunday this year.

Jesus, likewise, followed His own teaching before the kangaroo court that had been hastily and illegally assembled to arrange His execution. He remained silent. He stood in. He faced His accusers. He turned the other cheek each time He was beaten. All that Jesus would endure took its lethal physical toll, but the spiritual power that was unleashed would conquer death itself.

Time Reveals the True Measure of a Leader

English: Posthumous official presidential port...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” 1 Samuel 15:10-11a (NLT)

On Friday the United States will mark the 50th anniversary of the assination of President John F. Kenndedy. The media has been stirring for the past week with programs and news stories about Kennedy and his legacy. On Sunday, the news magazine CBS Sunday Morning spent their entire 90 minutes exploring the life and death of the young President. Wendy and I were on the couch watching as it’s part of our Sunday morning routine.

Wendy and I discussed President Kennedy that morning and the reality that he was in office less than three years before he was shot. Kennedy inspired the nation and laid out a grand vision, but he was killed before the nation could hold him accountable for his leadership in taking us to the realization of that vision. Reading current headlines is an interesting contrast. Our current President also inspired the nation and laid out a grand vision, but five years later the nation is in an uproar over failed implementation, the President’s party is in open rebellion, the nation is more politically divided than ever, and his approval rating is quickly plummeting. We will never know how Kennedy would have fared five years into his Presidency.

Time reveals the true measure of a leader, for time will always reveals a leader’s strengths and weaknesses. Like many leaders, King Saul started strong out of the gate. He led the nation to victory while displaying humility and deference. Today’s chapter, however, reveals a steady decline of character:

  • He was disobedient, allowing his army to capture the King of the Amalekites and take some of the spoils for themselves.
  • He excused his disobedience and lied, stating that the spoils were going to be sacrificed to God so that made it all okay.
  • When Samuel sought out Saul he found Saul, in a display of arrogant pride, erecting a monument to himself (I am so tempted to make the obvious phallic joke here).
  • When initially confronted with his disobedience, Saul did the usual political back-pedaling, obfuscating, and justifying his actions.

I am thankful that I do not have to face the spotlight of leadership on a national or global scale. Nevertheless, each of us find ourselves in positions of leadership in our homes, our businesses, neighborhoods and our communities. Time will reveal our strengths and weaknesses to those who follow, even if it’s only among our children, grandchildren or extended family. And make no mistake, our weaknesses will be revealed.

I have come to believe that perhaps the real pivotal question of leadership on any scale is how we respond to our own weaknesses and failures. Do we run, hide, excuse, justify, obfuscate, stonewall, gloss over, and deny? Or, do we accept, confess, own up, reconcile, learn from, better ourselves, and make things right?

There are No Lesser Roles

choices choices_SnapseedThree different times I begged the Lord to take [my suffering] away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9a

I am currently in the middle of casting a show for our local community theatre. I had a lot of people try out and there are many roles to fill. In all my years of working on the stage I know that the vast majority of people are wanting to be cast in one of the major, lead roles. This show has a host of smaller “bit” parts and I know that many people will be disappointed when they see that they have been cast in one of these “lesser” roles. Most people think that bit parts are by definition worse parts and that being cast in them means that they are considered lesser actors or have been maligned in some way. But, as a director, actor and playwright I don’t see it that way and it grieves me to know that people will be disappointed by my casting decisions.

Most stories and plays have “bit” parts because they are crucial to the telling and they often provide for some of the most important and entertaining moments. As a director, I pay close attention to the smaller parts and consider the casting of the bit parts to be among the most crucial decisions I make. In some cases, a “lesser” role is so important to the story that I only want to cast a strong actor whom I can trust in that role. Time after time after time I have watched productions in which audiences buzz afterwards about one of the “lesser” characters who played their part so well at such a crucial moment that they “stole the show” from the lead actors.

Shakespeare wrote “All the worlds a stage, and we are all but players in it.” In today’s chapter, Paul realizes a similar lesson about his own role in this life. Like our desire to have the lead role, we all tend to desire the spotlight of power, prestige, fortune, and fame. Paul had learned an important lesson, however. He learned that God, the author of creation and master playwright, is known for a recurring theme: common, lesser, younger, weak, marginalized characters become the most important and powerful pieces of the story. Consider the line up of players like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, John and all twelve of Jesus’ disciples. All of them were considered “weak” and “lesser” in the eyes of the world for various reasons (age, birth order, home of origin, handicap, social status, etc.), but ended up being among the crucial pieces to the Great Story. As God revealed to Paul, He specializes in making weakness a conduit of true power.

Today, I’m thinking about the many ways I feel “weak” on the grand stage of life as I compare myself to those who live in the spotlight of this world. I think about my own feelings of being “less than” and my need to be reminded of an old adage of the stage:  there are no small roles, only small actors. Help me, Lord, to play my role well today.

Much Ado About Something

Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah Dante Gabrie...
Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1899 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 29

 

But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” Genesis 29:25 (NLT)

 

Wendy and I have recently been enjoying the Great Performances series on PBS called Shakespeare Uncovered. In each episode a famous actor delves deep into the story line of one of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s a wonderful primer for those who have an interest in learning more about Shakespeare’s stories and the literary genius he was.

 

Perhaps that is why I couldn’t help noticing that there is a Shakespearian quality to the story of Jacob and his uncle Laban. Jacob the deceiver, born from Abraham and Isaac who were also deceivers, receives a does of his own medicine when he is deceived by his Uncle. Add to that plot line the tale of two sisters, one homely and the other one hot. The hot one is seemingly barren while the homely one appears to be a baby making factory. Jacob is in love with the latter but is tricked into marrying the former. The sibling rivalry and Leah’s desperate desire to win the love and affection of her husband leads to a fertile fury of son making. Truth is sometimes as compelling as a Bard’s tale.

 

One of Shakespeare’s greatest qualities as a playwright was his development of characters whose tragic flaws led to tragic consequences. In this, he really is just developing what is true of human nature. We all have tragic flaws. We all have blind spots and weaknesses. We will all look back and realize that along the journey our own shortcomings led to negative consequences. The question is: What will we do about them?

We do not have to remain blind and ignorant. Through introspection, conversation, transparent relationship, and accountability we can become aware of our blind spots. We can actually learn from our shortcomings and choose to modify our patterns of behavior before they wreak too much havoc on our lives and the lives of those in our circles of influence.

 

Today, I’m thinking about my own weaknesses. I am aware of areas of my life that have been blind spots for me. I do not want to live passively. I’m actively working on modifying my thought patterns and behaviors. I don’t know that I will ever eliminate the negative consequences of my flaws, but I can certainly diminish them and that’s something.

 

 

Chapter-a-Day Esther 2

source: corcarpemei via Flickr

Esther was the daughter of Abihail, who was Mordecai’s uncle. (Mordecai had adopted his younger cousin Esther.) When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she accepted the advice of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem. She asked for nothing except what he suggested, and she was admired by everyone who saw her. Esther 2:15 (NLT)

About a year ago I found myself on a committee. I had been asked to assist a team as they prepared a series of creative presentations. I was initially excited to be a part of the team. After a couple of meetings, however, it became clear that the chairman of this committee was not looking for wise counsel as much as he was looking for a group of rubber stamp lemmings to do what he wanted, when he wanted it, the way he wanted it done. After making one suggestion for how something could have been better communicated, I was called behind closed doors and asked to leave the team.

Sadly, I watched as the team fell apart. The series of presentations failed to deliver as promised, but the committee chairman continued to live in the delusion that they were a rousing success under his leadership.

The willingness to receive and follow wise counsel is not something we talk much about. Yet, I’ve come to realize what a key part it plays in successful people. It is likely that Esther would never have been queen if she had not willingly followed Hegai’s advice. Her ability to accept her own ignorance and accept Hegai’s wisdom led to her ultimate success.

We all have individual strengths and we all have individual weaknesses. When we listen to and follow the advice of those whose strengths are our weaknesses we shore up where we are lacking and set the stage for our ultimate success.

Chapter-a-Day John 11

tear
tear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then Jesus wept. John 11:35 (NLT)

I’m struck by the range of emotions Jesus experienced in today’s chapter. Confidence, frustration, compassion, anger, trouble, sorrow, and earnestness to list those top of mind. Jesus was clearly not afraid of His emotions. He felt things deeply.

I’m reminded today of Ezekiel’s prophecy:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

The women in my life will tell you that I’m a softy. It’s true. Tears come more easily to me  the older I get. God continues to work on me, and I can feel Ezekiel’s prophetic words literally fulfilled in my own heart. As I sit or stand in worship and the tears begin to run down my cheeks I regularly call to mind, along with Ezekiel’s words, a line from an old Bob Dylan tune: “It is only He who can reduce me to tears.”

I believe that experiencing Life in abundance requires experiencing deep emotion. Jesus’ ability to feel deeply and sincerely express His emotions was not a sign of His weakness, but a testament to His strength.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 18

Moses' father-in-law said, "This is no way to go about it. You'll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can't do this alone. Exodus 18:17 (MSG)

Moses was a great leader, but he was given to human faults and issues like all of us. It sometimes seems easier to just do something myself than to take the time to teach others to do it and risk the problems which will likely arise. But, like Moses, I can only do that for so long before I burn out – then everyone loses.

Self-sufficiency and rugged individualism are admirable traits in the right circumstances, but our greatest strengths easily become tragic weaknesses. As tasks grow, we need to trust and rely on the strengths of others.