When I was young and big-hearted, I had a dream. I had a hope. I had a longing that one day I would have to get…crutches. This still makes me chuckle today. I wanted the cast and the signatures on it, but most importantly, I wanted to use crutches. I don’t know why, but I thought they were the coolest thing.
One day, I saw a pair of crutches at a thrift store. I begged my mom to get them. With a chuckle, she bought me those crutches. The first thing I did when I got home: run outside with my crutches and hobble around the yard to play “little orphan Annie.” Those crutches got plenty of playtime, including me flipping them over to walk on them like stilts.
No matter how I played with those crutches, one thing was sure: they were never a symbol of weakness. I was more than proud to be seen with my crutches. Now, I am 23 with no broken bones and a new attitude toward signs of weakness.
Weakness, it is a lack of strength, an inadequate or defective quality, fragility, or a failing. My weaknesses became one with shame. They became a symbol of my unworthiness. They became something to hide. Whether I like it or not, my weaknesses will always come to the light.
Now I am learning a new lesson about weakness. I am learning that dependency on God is not a weakness, but a strength. He gave me the image of crutches. Imagine with me that I have broken my leg and I need crutches. The crutches remind me that I cannot move on my own. I am the broken one. The crutches are the sturdy and strong ones. When I lean into them, they support me and propel me forward. Dependency on God is similar.
Now, no simile, analogy, or metaphor I make will ever be perfect. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that God is a crutch in the figurative definition of a crutch. God is not a temporary source of support that I am depending on in an unhealthy way. If I were saying that, I would be participating in the criticism many great minds have had toward religion:
“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people.” —Jesse Ventura
“Even many atheists would agree that believing that God cares about you or that your life is part of a cosmic plan can be a powerful source of hope (or, to put it pejoratively, a crutch).” —Virginia Postrel
“Religion has caused more harm than any other idea since the beginning of time. There’s nothing good I can say about it. People use it as a crutch.”—Larry Flynt
These thoughts show me something very serious about how people see religion, God, and Jesus. Many see belief in God as a cop out, an excuse, a crutch. I don’t blame them. If I look for this in my own community of Christians, I can see this enacted before me. But, with honest conviction, I can say that I see something different more often.
I see people who are fully aware of their inadequacies. I see people who know that they are broken, this world is broken, and that we need help. I see people who have searched sincerely for where this help could come from. I see people who have discovered that Jesus is the solution. I see weakness, then I see strength.
In 2 Corinthians 12:5, Paul states, “I will not boast except of my weaknesses.” Why would Paul want to boast in only his weaknesses and not his strengths? He gives us the answer a few verses later:
“But [God] 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 in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
This passage always challenges me. It shows me the humility that comes with following Jesus. Following Jesus is never about us, it is always about Him. Following Jesus is never about our strength, it is always about His. Following Jesus is never about our glory, it is always about His.
I am broken. I am not perfect. That is a fact. Look at my life for just a few minutes and you will agree with me about that. When I encountered the power of an all-powerful God, I discovered that trying to hide my weakness was just silly. But, if I give my weakness to God, something amazing happens. I lean onto God. He is a firm foundation. And suddenly my wobbly legs become firm. And suddenly I was no longer stationary. And I know that it is not because I am strong, but because God is.
Think about how young Debbie viewed crutches. They were a symbol of weakness, yes. But they were something longed after and, once found, rejoiced over. They were a source of strength and pride. This is God to me. He is my strength.