Limited by Either/Or

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Either/Or or Both/And. I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot. The idea being, we don’t have to pick either/or, we can be both/and. I think of Jessica Honegger the creator of Noonday and her statements like Scared & Brave, Successful & Beginner. It sounds inspiring. I am inspired. And yet I relate more to the limits of either/or. I’m either all in OR not involved. I am either prepared to fill in all the gaps myself or I’m not planning on showing up. I either trust in my ability to produce OR I trust that God’s got it. But not both.

“he (God) answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power. “ 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

That is what I have been wrestling with lately. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness… but when does that strength kick in? I want Him involved. And yet I do such a thorough job of working out the details that I don’t leave space for my faith to increase. I operate as if it’s either me OR Him. Not me AND Him. I trust that God is good. I trust that God is at work. I also believe theoretically that He can use me to accomplish His work. But I don’t know that I really understand this partnering with God IN work. I think I put us each in our boxes… this is my work, that is God’s work, but I really don’t trust we’re working on the same aspects of the project together. Do we both want my children to know Him as their Lord and Savior. Yes. So that means that I'm trying hard: Trying hard at teaching them spiritual truths. Trying hard at praying for them. Trying hard at modeling an authentic and consistent personal faith. But if I look at my kids I see it as either payment for my efforts OR God’s grace. Not a combination of God and I working together. Why is that? Faulty theology I know. And then recently I’ve felt this weight in my ministry job. I know I am working for the benefit of the kingdom, and my work doesn’t feel useless. But it still largely feels like MY effort. And then when I’m tired and discouraged, and I mess up or completely fail, it’s God’s grace that miraculously keeps the school running and a few graduates that leave with transformed lives. Honestly on my best days I probably do see us working together. But there are just as many days if not more that my perspective is either my work OR His work.

In my discouragement is when this WITH God concept is the hardest for me to understand. If He’s working WITH me, why does he allow failure? If His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and He is WITH me, why do I still feel weak? How do we understand this great mystery of working WITH God? That it’s Him working IN us and through us and WITH us to accomplish his purpose. That if I’m working my hardest and only get to 60% or 40%… that is where He comes in and takes me to 100%. I feel like it’s easier to have faith that God is accomplishing his will in-spite of my efforts. That He is able to spread His light, His love and His truth, expanding His Kingdom even though I have continually operated independently (read insufficiently). With is a preposition, which means it’s a linking word, and prepositions explain the location of the noun & object. God linked to me. God with me. God with me physically. God with me on location. God with my brain as I problem-solve, and work out details.

So today I’m standing in Either/Or, Me OR God… but praying for a heart and a mind that understands and feels Both/And. Both God AND Me. God IN Me. God WITH Me. Strength AND Weakness.

 

Sara Carlson