It can be very difficult to remain positive when our own weaknesses look us square in the face, seeming as glaring as billboards and impossible to look beyond. It seems like my own weaknesses have been on display this semester, things I hadn’t noticed before now becoming blatantly obvious to me, and probably to others. Ouch.
It has undoubtedly been a painful process at various points, but the depth of pain I feel is always matched with depth of joy. Not always happiness, but deep, hopeful joy that gives me perseverance to continue on, believing that it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes and awareness of these weaknesses have been incredible catalysts for new growth and learning. They have revealed things that I claim as my identity that are inaccurate, replacing those things with truth that Jesus speaks over me, including attributes like peaceful, righteous, courageous, and free.
Going into this year, I knew that it would be imperative for me to live in constant gratitude. Now that I am a few weeks into this semester, gratitude has been even more critical than I expected in this growing process. For every weakness and mistake that becomes apparent, I have been challenged to dwell on twice as many words of truth and things that I am thankful for. I have an eight-foot piece of brown paper hung up on my wall where I list those things that I am thankful for, hoping to gather as many as I can by the end of the year. Some days it has required all of my gumption to add to that list, but my heart often becomes lighter as the list grows longer.
In chapel the other day, the speaker referenced a poem entitled “Who am I?” by writer, theologian, and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer that spoke to my heart. In it, he discussed the dissonance he felt because he was not sure whether his true self was what others saw of his strength, the weaknesses he saw in himself, or someone else:
…Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!
So on those days when I don’t live well and am confronted with weakness, I have trained myself to focus on what is true: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4: 16, ESV.