I am a husband who treats his wife with disrespect and contempt; I am a husband who loves his wife dearly and honors her. I am a father who gets frustrated with his children after a long day at work; I am a father who puts his arm around a forlorn child to offer reassurance. I am a man who is not there for a friend in his time of need; I am a man who drops everything to help out a friend. I am a pastor who cuts corners to get everything done during the week; I am a pastor who pours his life into his work. I am a Soldier who fails to follow even the most basic leadership principles; I am a Soldier who selflessly sacrifices for those he leads. I am a runner who goes for weeks without running; I am a runner who pushes himself faster and farther. I am a luthier who makes incorrect measurements and cuts; I am a luthier who produces beautiful guitars. I am a failure; I am a success. I am weak; I am strong.
Aren't these the dichotomies (i.e., oppositions) of life each and every one of us face? Though we are frail, yet we are sturdy. It's one of the harsh realities of human existence. Even though we strive to reach the top of the mountain, we so often fall well short of its summit. Indeed, this reality is so harsh that I don't even want to describe it or its manifestations as "dichotomies." The word possesses too soft an ending--too gentle a denouement. I prefer to call them life's "dikes." This word is harder, containing greater cacophony. It catches the ear, favors dissonance, and begs rejection...similar to the articulation of life's many oppositions.
But there is a benefit to the discordance of life's dikes. They bring us to the realization that we cannot go it alone...we cannot succeed of our own power. We require something more. Indeed, we require something--or someone--divine. Life's dikes lead us to the foot of the cross where we hear the transparent, unadorned words of Paul: "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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Only in our recognized weakness can we assume the power of Christ to do good and live rightly.
In my own life, when I am a good husband, a loving father, a decent friend, a conscientious pastor, a respectable Soldier, a dedicated runner, and, yes, even an accomplished luthier, it is only because I have been bathed in the light of God's grace. I can do no good on my own. I have no true power resident in myself. My good power comes only when I am willing to put aside my own self-sufficiency and cry out, "When I am weak, He is strong!"
It is time to deal with the harsh reality of our dikes! Does the word grate on your ears? Does the idea of harboring dikes offend you? I hope so! And if so, let them go and let God take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Embrace the dikes knowing that God can make good what we and sin have made so very wrong.