I recently was introduced to the writings of William R. Newell, a pastor in Chicago and administrator at Moody Bible Institute beginning in 1895. It is said that he had a clearer grasp of the magnitude of God's grace in Christ than some others had or have. One quote in particular that has drawn my attention is:
"To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself"
It caused me to look back through notes from my devotional time because I remember having a similar thought from another Bible Study I was involved in last year. I had written:
Expecting myself to fail is not trusting in God's power working in me, but in my own weakness.
This was an "Ah Ha" moment for me at the time but now I realize it was God opening up a dialogue with me that is continuing to unfold. You see, I probably have seen myself as a less-than-productive, too-laid-back, not-motivated-enough, somewhat-lazy, undisciplined creature for most of my life. Those who know me have tried in vain to encourage me that such thinking is invalid but I have been sure I knew better and brushed aside their comments as mere flattery or as ill-informed well-meaning kindnesses. I have been quite familiar with my short comings, my weaknesses, my failures and disliked them all.
I think that being aware of our weak spots is important though. It has kept me from volunteering for positions I knew I was not qualified to do. It has helped me set priorities and boundaries in my life. But to dwell on those cracks in my facade with disdain and wish them away and feel inferior because of them is not what God intended when He created me in His fearful and wonderful way. At least that's the conclusion I am coming too and what I think Rev. Newell was getting at in his quote.
When I have been or am disappointed in myself, it is the same as thinking I should be better or should get better. It is saying I believe that I am capable of more. It is saying that I am better than this. That I am not living up to my potential. That I need to more "perfect". And it is easy to see , in my case anyway, how this line of thinking leads to a conversation with me that goes something like:
"What's wrong with you!"
"Why can't you be like so-and-so!"
"You are such a loser!"
"You blew it again!"
"Why would you ever think that you can do that!"
You get my drift? And did you notice all the "I" statements there?
God tells me in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that I, like Paul, should "most gladly, therefore, boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me" because God's power is perfected in my weakness. If I let my shortcomings put me in a funk because I think they shouldn't be there, isn't that wanting to be strong in myself and not strong in the power of Christ? Isn't it believing in myself rather than what God can do in and through me?
The Apostle Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
God, through Paul, is telling me that who I am is a sign of His grace. I have abilities, and some strengths, because He put them there. I also have weaknesses because He put them there. And He did that because I need to need Him. And that's where He extends more grace to shore up those weak areas and let His own incredible strength come through. When I mess up and get down on myself it is the same as saying I deserve to be perfect on my own. That I want to be able to trust in myself all by myself to be who I want to be. Again, a lot of "I" mentioned there.
Failure is disappointing and not fun at all. I hate to miss the mark and fall short of the finish line or make a mess of things or come off looking like a doofus. But the real disappointment shouldn't be in the reminder that I am less than perfect, but in the realization that I was depending on myself again. That once again I believed in my own ability to get it right. Beating myself up is not putting anything in order. Order comes when I get my thinking back in line with God who says that:
"we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves."
(2 Corinthians 4:7)
I am a cracked pot of clay. Why do I expect to be a silver clad urn on a pedestal? If I was, there would be no need of Christ in my life. I wouldn't need His power to work in me. I wouldn't need the support and encouragement of others. I could take all the credit myself and the "surpassing greatness" would be all mine.
Oh, but that is not God's desire. He desires a relationship with me. He wants me to need Him so that I will depend on Him and His inexhaustible love for me, so that I will recognize that apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5) but with Him, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13). God wants me to believe in HIM and trust in HIM, not me in either case.
Just to be clear...I don't thing my weak spots should just be ignored by me. God gives me plenty of guidelines in how to address them in His Word. My conclusion, so far, is that my response to my failures or stumbles or trip ups has to turn me to my need for Jesus and His strength and not to my lack of ability or perfection. My eyes have to be turned away from Me, Me, Me and focused on Him, Him, Him
I imagine that this dialogue with God is not finished yet. Maybe He intended it to include someone who reads this and sees the flaws in my thinking or agrees with some of it or is wondering some of the same thoughts.