The Limits of Strength

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I can think of few things more pride filling than performing a feat of strength and being applauded for it. But the other day, I threw out my back. And the worst of it was that there was no one there to see me. Typically, I can lift heavy things and try to do so when my kids are watching. I love it when they ooh and ahh over my strength. This time, however, I went too far. Ironically, these same kids take up so much of my time that I have very little space and energy to work on these weakened muscles. I seem to remember being a lot stronger than I am now.. There is a limit, after all, to my strength and my time. Truly, time is slipping away.

And that is the way of it, isn’t it? Time and strength are slipping away, and our grip upon them loosen every day. Sometimes the more desperate we are to affect some sort of change or make up for lost time, the worse we feel. After-all, our strength in the grand scheme of all things is exceedingly puny. We cannot accomplish much, and we cannot slow the creep of time. And yet Jesus said that we would do great things.

“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” —John 14:12

How are these things compatible? 

I have been reading a book a friend at the church gave to me called, ‘Patrick: Son of Ireland.’ It is, as you probably guessed, a novel based on the little we know about the life of St. Patrick. In the book, Patrick comes to a point in his young life where all that he has tried to put together is utterly destroyed. Ironically, he is at the height of his worldly success both in money and in accomplishments. But that awful foe called death has invaded his family and he despairs. Whatever worldly accomplishments provide him no relief, no happiness.  Just then, a kindly priest gently tells him that maybe it is time to try something different. “You have learned what a man can do in his own strength, yes? Perhaps now it is time to learn what God can do with a man who knows the limits of his strength.” He meant that maybe Patrick should stop trying to do Patrick-things and try instead to do God-things.

And that is the better way of it, isn’t it? That we, though small and weak, unable to stop the flow of time or the onrushing enemy, can do greater things than we could ever do on our own. We could do things that last forever, if we do the things God calls us to. Reading this novel made me realize that I need to check and recheck the things I put my time and effort into to make sure I am doing God-things and not my-things. And reading these words of Christ remind me of the success that awaits all of us if we choose His things instead.