am a non-conventional pastor's wife – my husband is an Active Duty Chaplain in the U.S. Army. He preaches most Sunday evenings to students in one of the toughest military leadership courses in the world – Ranger School. These students are broken down in every way, and many of them show up to service on Sunday nights. Some come to have their souls fed – they need to be reminded that God will equip them if He has called them there. Many come for the extra calories that are offered in the slice of white bread with a slab of peanut butter – a ridiculously luscious treat, all things considered. My husband can empathize with them because he went through the very same training –through months and months of weakness, his skills in small-unit infantry combat tactics were built, and he earned the Ranger tab, which signifies a trustworthy and capable military leader. Even the Army knows that much can be learned through weakness – in fact, that is how the strongest leaders are trained.
The Apostle Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV): But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest up on me.
The context of this famous verse is this: there was something causing Paul much pain that He pleaded to Jesus for relief three times. Whether that was a physical ailment or pain inflicted by false apostles disrupting the Corinthian church, Paul was in a posture of weakness and humility before the Lord. And we learn that this posture of dependence is for our good and His glory – why else would Paul use the words "gladly" and "delight" in regard to weakness?
It's so clear that there is much to be learned through weakness, yet our culture wants every single one of us to be allergic to it. Weakness, our culture says, should be avoided at all costs. Think about the endless number of self-help books and beautifully curated self-affirmation phrases and popular speakers that capitalize on a self-promoting gospel. These things are offered up to function as epi pens to combat the moments of weakness that everyone feels. So when we echo Paul and say, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest up on me", we are being counter-cultural.
I think this cultural stance is most clearly seen in marriage. You see, when God made Eve, He called her a "helper" to Adam (Gen. 2:18, 20), and He called it very good. Yet our culture cringes at this notion of women being "helpers". Our culture tells us that an essential component of womanhood is independence. How can we be one
flesh in marriage then? Why does our culture consider something our brilliant God called "very good" to be a threat to our personhood? Our culture is missing a few important points: first, biblical roles of men and women arenever
informed by culture. Second, the Hebrew word for "helper" is "ezer", and it is a weighty word that holds tremendous significance. In the Old Testament, it is only used 21 times and always in the context of grand acts of rescue and support. Of those 21 times, the term is used 16 times in reference to God as a Helper. It is used twice in reference to Eve, and the remaining three times it describes people acting in life-threatening situations. "Helper" doesn't suggest weakness.
But that isn't the point of this post. Weakness, whether perceived or real, isn't a death sentence in God's economy. In fact, this is what I want to teach my children – much can be learned in weakness, and this is the posture we should remain in before our great God. Luckily, being an Army wife gives me ample opportunities to teach them these lessons in real time. Many military spouses joke that everything breaks and goes wrong as soon as their soldier leaves for a deployment. But the truth is, life just goes on – things break and need tending to. It's just the nature of life on this side of eternity. But these moments of weakness are opportunities to draw on the strength of community. And man, Army families impressively rally together! But oh, how much more the local church!
When things go wrong in our home during a deployment, my children see me go to the Lord in prayer and to fellow believers. They see humility when I cry out to the Lord for patience and strength and wisdom. They see humility when I phone my sisters-in-Christ asking for help. And they see the body of Christ at work. There have been countless times when my husband was away and sickness struck our house. And the majority of those times, they saw food and medicine being delivered and child care offered for the healthy kids. Or that time I jumped on the opportunity to move houses to save some money (as if we don't move enough)? My husband was gone and it was the church that helped me pack boxes and a parade of trucks and vans. My children saw that church wasn't the building with a steeple that we happen to visit every Tuesday and Sunday – it was the people that helped us create a home. It was the teenager that mowed our lawn for free while daddy was away. It was the pastor that rinsed out our garbage bins without complaints. It was the people that prayed for us in times of celebration and sorrow. It was the people that we broke bread with every Friday night – our deep fellowship was always tethered to the teaching of God's Word, verse by verse.
In the Army, wives are considered "dependents" of their husbands. But it's in the Army that I have met the strongest women I know. They have stood by their husbands' sides through countless deployments that add up toyears
of raising children alone. It's not abnormal to give birth without your husband or have your husband leave for 9-months, leaving you with a 2-week old and a 21-month old (which is our story). But whether your husband is a soldier defending our country or a software developer or an x-ray tech, I imagine most would say this: they couldn't offer their best at work without the assurance of a stable home front provided by their wives.
The Army is full of acronyms and particular lingo, and one is this: Army wives are often referred to as HH6 – Household 6, where the number 6 represents a commander. It's all for fun, but it just shows the importance of an Army wife's work at home. I may not be the typical pastor's wife, physically serving alongside my husband, but I know my husband considers me a vital partner in his ministry – even if that means my work is tending to our three young children at home while he serves. And goodness, the last fives years have been hard for our family, but part of our particular Kingdom work is to show our children that we can be weak before the Lord and draw on His strength to sustain us. And as a mama that solo parents often, I can show my children the joy in submission – when daddy is home, we look to him for guidance as the head of our household. They know that mama is capable of a lot of things, but they know she does it with the help of the body of believers. And they know that even if she is strong and able, she looks to daddy to be the provider and protector and leader of our home.
One of the sweetest lessons I have learned as an Army wife is this: we serve a faithful God that is in the details of our lives and He always
fills in the gaps. When I worried that my son wouldn't be close to his dad because he was gone for more than 2 years of his 4 years of life, God knit their hearts together as only He can do. And my son (sometimes to my dismay) is a daddy's boy, through and through. When my husband recycled a phase in Ranger School and I fell to my knees on the bathroom floor in heart wrenching prayer, he met me there. He was fully aware that my husband could potentially miss the birth of our third child if he recycled another phase (he didn't, praise God!). When we stay in a posture of weakness before God, we are met and sustained. And even more, we are matured – we grow in our spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting. We experience deep community in being a part of a body of believers, the church. And all of this leads us to worship.
So this is why there is deep, eternal benefits in teaching our kids the blessing of being weak: they will be led to worship God. And they will know God as:
Jevoah Jireh – the Lord our Provider
Jevoah Sabaoth – the Lord our Protector
Jehovah Shammah – the Lord who is Near
Jehovah Raah – the Lord our Shepherd, who leads us and loves us