n a trip to the family cottage, my mother, brother, and I had a discussion about earliest memories. I recalled an experience in an oxygen tent with a teddy bear and my grandmother; I was only a year and a half old. I’d had difficulty breathing, due to a very premature birth, and stayed in a Florida hospital as my lungs struggled to do something that’s so natural it’s normally automatic. It’s a powerful memory, I think, because it’s drenched in weakness.
This weakness became deeply ingrained during my college experience as I grappled with arthritic joint pain and muscle fatigue, unexpected effects of an active life lived with cerebral palsy (CP). In short, cerebral palsy stems from damage to the brain, related to premature birth complications, that results in reduced mobility, muscle function, and motor skills.
During college I often felt exhausted and somewhat frustrated, facing this new, unexpected physical challenge. I would pray and plead for permanent relief from the pain, often in the dead of night, but God would provide an unexpected prescription, showing that perseverance is the unexpected — and greater — miracle. As the apostle Paul writes: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Weakness isn’t something our culture celebrates. Society encourages emulation of people who possess power: politicians, athletes, authors, musicians, Wall Street wiz-kids, and movie and television stars. Most of us recognize we aren’t them, that they have a level of temporal success we do not – but wish we did; many of us secretly wish we were them, as these are our culture’s “heroes.” Conversely, our culture ignores the weak, saying, at best, they should be helped because they cannot live, achieve, or contribute on their own.
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