I assume this weakness thing has plagued me my whole life (Have I mentioned pride? Because I struggle with that one about 114% of the time, every time), but it's never been more apparent to me than in the midst of what can arguably be considered the apex of my time here at home since graduating college. After a summer of rejection by no-response-whatsoever, my dreams of interning with a late night comedy show or a satirical newspaper based in Chicago were dashed five times over. ("But your degree is in political science," you say wisely, to which bespectacled, hipster General responds, "Yes, but my dream has always been comedy, man.") If you want to know what failure and weak feels like, try explaining to your parents that the past four years (of which they assisted in funding) may have been spent in a field of study you love, but you're not in love with it. Bonus points if your father is a gun-owning, salt-of-the-earth, Blue-collar working, Republican who secretly thinks your dream makes you a commie-loving pinko.
But when the past few months provided nothing but a bleak and dismal future of me living with my parents FOREVER, I sobered quickly and began applying for internships more closely related to my field. Within the week, I had two interview offers. Within that same week, I had such severe anxiety because rather than the success I was blessed with, all I could focus on was the impending failure brought about by my infinitesimal weaknesses. My brain wouldn't shut up. You're crippled by your insecurities (your abilities, your femininity, your intelligence, your physical appearance, how funny you are, how "Christian" you are) and your fear of the unknown. You can't keep it together mentally (you had to see a counselor during college and in the months leaving it), spiritually (you haven't tithed once in the past year, you haven't volunteered anywhere, you've been so wrapped up in your own bout of depression that the first time you attended church since last May was two weeks ago), or professionally (you still don't have a real job; you're still working part-time at that video game place). And relationally you're such a failure you can't even bring yourself to call any of your old friends for fear that they may want nothing to do with you when you don't have the energy left to be 'the entertainer.' How could you possibly succeed now?
Turns out that both the apostle Paul and Luke Skywalker shared in my crippling weaknesses. See, Luke was a whiny, ungrateful moisture farmer (what the hell does that even mean?) on some scrap of land on Tatooine, an entire planet of deserts, Jawas, and freaking Sand People, and Paul--Super-Christian Paul--even writes that because he struggled with pride, he was given a thorn to torment him (see 2 Cor. 12:7). To anybody else, these two men would be seen as useless. What's the point of a proud man serving a God who values and demands humility? How could anyone possibly pick Luke--this whiny orphan who's never even heard of the Force before--to be the key player for the Rebel Alliance? Especially when Han is so much hotter and doubles as a part time professor/archaeologist in his spare time?
The key is grace. Luke is weak, but both Ben Kenobi and eventually Yoda are gracious enough to extend at least a chance for him to measure up to the hero the Rebel Alliance has been searching for. When Paul is all, "This blows; could you at least try to help me out with this thorn issue?" (essentially the Message translation, I assume), God comes back with, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9b) The key is paradox.
The paradox doesn't magically solve my insecurities or my crippling fear (just like applying logic to Doctor Who doesn't magically make the show any easier to understand, sadly). But what it does is give me the freedom and breathing room to face those weaknesses and know that in that moment, God makes up for what I lack, the Ben Kenobi to my General Kenobi. So that in that moment, I can join in when Paul concludes:
"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).