2 Corinthians 12:2-10
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows. And I know this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Several years ago, God healed some major emotional wounds that I had been carrying around with me for almost my entire life. He sat me down in a church where I knew almost no one, and for 5 weeks, He peeled away layers of hurt, anger, and resentment that no one knew I was holding except me. Today, in that same church, He took me deeper in our journey together. The topic covered in today’s sermon was whether we are “fans” of Christ, or true, white knuckle, all-in followers. Some self evaluation was in order for me. Was I a follower? A real, dig in, fight it out, sign me up, let’s do this, follower? Or was I just a fan? One who sits on the sidelines and watches the game happen?
I’m glad to say that, for the most part, I think I can call myself a true follower, but it isn’t easy. When I’m challenged hard enough, my first instinct is total panic. I want to run for the hills. My head says to turn in my uniform and forfeit the game. It takes everything I have ever learned about God and His goodness to keep my feet on the ground and stay in the fight when things don’t look good. Recently, I had a real “fork in the road” moment, with my mother’s death. I found myself in my normal battle stance, scared, hurt, confused, wondering if the life I’ve chosen is the one I really wanted to sign up for, ready to run as fast as I could in any other direction but Home. Today, after church, James and I were discussing the sermon and talking about whether we thought ourselves to be fans or followers, and I made a joke. I told him, “God must have known what He was doing. He must have known my tendency to run. I think He made me paralyzed so I couldn’t run.” We laughed. I walked up the stairs, sat down to watch TV, and then it hit me like a brick to the gut. I’m right. He made me paralyzed so I cannot run from Him. He knows my first instinct is to jet when things get hard, and how much I have to force myself to go against my entire body and run TO Him instead. In the verse I quoted above, Paul talks about asking God for healing for his “thorn in the flesh,” and when God says no, he realizes God has left it there for a greater purpose. As long as Paul has this thorn in his flesh, he has to keep going back to God. It keeps him humble. I’ve heard all this before, but today it hit me from a different angle. When I first applied this passage to my life, I thought God was trying to tell me He did not heal me so that I could relate to the spina bifida community; so I could be one of them (us) and I would stay humble to serve and love on the children whose parents follow this crazy blog I ramble on. Today, my understanding changed. Today, He told me I still have my “thorn in the flesh” so that I cannot run; so that whenever things get too tough and I want to throw in the towel, I remember how much better it is to walk through this life WITH Him than it was WITHOUT Him. He leaves the thorn there so that I still need Him, and I remember how much I still need Him. He made me paralyzed so that I cannot run. Today, I make a rather stumbly, pretty wobbly, committment not to run anymore. I will be a true follower to the best of my ability, and when I feel the urge to train for a marathon, I’ll ask Him to bring me back. God, You didn’t make me to run. I don’t want to. Take me where You want me.
Sometime, I’ll tell you guys about the woman I know who was caught up in heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know-God knows.