2 Corinthians 12:7-10
 These are the final verses of an otherwise weird and confusing text from Paul:

 ...a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Over the years, the words in the photo above have not been particularly easy ones for me to own. I spent years honing my skills. I studied and practiced – went to seminary for the love of Pete; I was well prepared, competent, and even excellent in my job.  Careful planning based on solid theory and theology followed by great execution of those plans made things “perfect”. Weakness? Bah!

It is a little ironic that this scripture should pop up this week. I just got back from an ELCA youth gathering. This has been a fairly regular “gig” through my 30 years of ministry and I know from experience – heart stuff, not head - that “my grace is sufficient for you” is the only way to survive one of these intense and chaotic trips.  

In fact, it was the very first one as the primary adult leader that taught me the complete miracle of those words. The youth pastor had just left and suddenly this thing was my baby. I was scared to death. The congregation had a long history of participation in the ALC’s gatherings - very powerful, very “successful” participation. My leader’s handbook and my innate planning skills got me through the preparation stages pretty well. Confirmation and Luther League had helped to create solid relationships with the youth. But I still was not prepared.

I was not ready for the reality of being responsible for 9 youth and a young adult leader driving in the church van to San Antonio TX through the open expanses of Kansas and Oklahoma during a massive heat wave that put day time temps well over 100 (1988). We were driving a church van that couldn’t handle a massive heat wave, regularly overheating, regularly dying, and needing to run without air conditioning as we traveled. 

In San Antonio, during an outdoor event, I had 2 youth end up with heat exhaustion who were taken to two different hospitals (please remember this is pre-cell phone era). Then, I had a youth need medical care for an infected foot. Another evening, I lost someone at the mass gathering (again, pre-cell phone era) and saw him across the outdoor stadium just as the lights went out. We both ran through the hallway toward each other in the dark and eventually found each other. 

At the end of the Gathering, we headed home with continuing van troubles, and heat. A bandaged foot stuck between the driver and passenger seats - the lightest bump would result in a howl from the foot's owner. A slightly sick and grumpy group of kids filled the seats. 

When we got home safely, I knew God’s grace was sufficient. Because I also knew that “all that” was out of my control completely. Power was made perfect in weakness. I held onto that lesson for every gathering, including the one last week. You could say that I boast gladly of my weaknesses so God’s amazing grace is seen.

Now, it took many more years before I could recognize, much less claim that was true for all of my ministry and work… or all of my life for that matter… Whenever I am weak, then I am strong is not the best interview line… It is by grace alone that I can say that God’s grace is sufficient.

This is a question from Sunday’s Growing in Faith Together post:
In what ways have you experienced the grace of God in times of weakness? 
Has it been sufficient for you? 

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