Monday, January 24, 2011

If His Grace is Sufficient, What's for Dinner?

Living in a small(er) college town years ago, I was in my mid-20s and happily single. The town didn't have much going on in terms of culture or "life" for my age group, so, I easily got into a routine to stay sane. I arrived at my downtown office before the downtown awoke...well, to the coffee shop outside the downtown office...then opened the office doors while sipping my hot java, worked eight to ten hours, including a plethora of meetings outside the office to make the day go by faster, and then headed to the local grocery store to decide what would be for dinner. I lived alone, but cooked a huge dinner each night, in case any of my friends were to visit.

Now, almost twenty years later, I realize going to the grocery store each night after work was probably not the most efficient activity in terms of budgeting, but I felt like that town was just so small there was nothing else to do. I was active in at least three church activities, my sorority, three business organizations, and who knows what else just to fill the space. I was living from Friday to Friday...the day when I'd leave work, jump in my SUV, and get on the highway headed back to Detroit for the weekend. "Friday night, just got paid, party's jumpin', feelin' right..." The best thing, though, was with all that cooking, I became a much better cook! Friends did come by for dinner, especially my neighbors in the building who could smell the aroma from my second-floor abode each night. I was popular and loving it...but, after dinner, my mental-emotional space was empty again.

But God! was always there...and He was the only One I wasn't inviting to sit at my table. I was an "adult" then, with a great career, with two degrees, and my sites set on maybe someday becoming an attorney. I had SO much to be thankful for, and yet, I was ignoring Him, not saying thank You nearly enough. I was discovering my spirituality, as a baby Christian, as I've heard it called. If I had known better, I would have come home each night, gotten down on my knees immediately, and simply spent all that "entertainment" time praising Him and thanking Him for the day. Lord knows I would've saved thousands in my bank account, and countless gifts in my spiritual account, instead of "investing" it in the super market and my fleshly ideas of popularity. I wasn't building my pantry...I was just throwing away money on one-night meals. I wasn't investing in God, I was investing in me. As much as I could, I was "living the life."

3Whether my body was there or just my spirit, I don't know; only God knows. 4But I do know that I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told. 5That experience is something worth boasting about, but I am not going to do it. I am going to boast only about my weaknesses. 6I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, because I would be telling the truth. But I won't do it. I don't want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and my message, 7even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. 8Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. 10Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2nd Corinthians 12:3-10 (NLT)] 

At 25, I was diagnosed with multiple ultimate weakness. All these years later, I've come back to the big city, become even more "popular," made even more friends, lived an even better life, and yet, my MS has gotten worse. Like Paul, I prayed many times for God to cure me, to remove the MS thorn from my brain stem and nervous system; for God to work through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to do more than just host annual walk-a-thons, but to go further to push doctors and researchers to find the cure. Many times, my MS has gone into remission, but God has not "removed the thorn." As the disease has progressed, I have learned to "boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may work through me." More often than not, people say they never even knew I had MS. They say, "How do you stay so positive?" "With all you've endured physically, how do you stay so at peace?" I simply respond, "His grace is sufficient...would you like to stay for dinner?"

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