Sunday, August 13, 2023

Where is God’s Strength in My Weakness?

Presently, I am lying in my bed, writing this on my iPad. I have spent a lot of time in my bed lately, taking the weight off pain, trying to “manage my discomfort,” or else just being exhausted. I have been ill most of this Summer. In addition to the usual periodic flare-ups of arthritis and myofascial pain, I seem to be afflicted by a mental exhaustion—and a kind of paralysis in communicating that has made writing more difficult and at times renders me perplexed even in speech.

And, yes, I am forgetting things more and more. It may only be “brain fog,” but it’s more than usual.

Not much of this is surprising. My “mood” has been low, although on a deeper level I have a “joy” that has received great encouragement from the encounter of Pope Francis with young people at World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon. There are, in fact, many things for me to rejoice about right now; some significant and wonderful things are happening in our family life. I’ll share more details on these things soon.

I haven’t done much with social media, other than sharing some artwork. I haven’t been posting links to my blog lately, although I have tried to keep writing all through July and August thus far. There are a some articles and also some useful resources, so I will have to find a way to “catch up” with my Facebook contacts and also on X (the site formerly known as Twitter). Ay ya yaiy, “X”!🙄 -

Ironically, my “right brain” (the creative side) has been engaged frequently by the ever-expanding visual techniques of AI, which I am determined to make use of—insofar as I am able—as a new kind of “material” out of which genuine forms of art may be fashioned. I don’t know how much success I have had thus far in making anything that is beautiful or evocative—it seems to me that I’m still in the midst of my “ten thousand hours” of learning a craft. In any case, even this work tires me out rapidly.

We have also had to wrestle with a series of very stressful circumstances this Summer regarding my wife’s work. For now, things appear to be resolved. But the stress of this ordeal was frequently intense, and I feel like it might have “taken a few years off” what’s left of my already-battered-up, overstressed, strange and unpredictable life.

I have lots to say about my East Asian Studies and Media Studies projects, but I haven’t been able to put anything “together.” But my studies slowly move forward. My monthly column in Magnificat is sometimes torturous to write, and yet—as of now—I haven’t given up on it. I have learned so much from this work over the past 10+ years, and I have had a special opportunity to share stories of people from all over the world and all through the past 2000 years of history whose lives have been changed by their encounters with Jesus through the Church. It’s a real challenge to “condense” these stories into two page articles, but the resulting brevity is probably part of what draws people to read them. It takes some surprisingly intense effort to write short pieces that are focused—that are both rich and concise. This work has been a great blessing. But some months are very hard, and sometimes I feel like I’m being pushed way beyond my limits, and far too close to going “over the edge.” I don’t really know how to convey what I struggle with here: I love researching and writing my “Conversion Stories” column but it also just wipes me out.

Right now I’m living with a lot of weakness, and if there is strength offered or built up by anything I do, I cannot perceive it. I fear that I might be becoming languid and discouraged—but I think that the sense of purpose, the desire to press on, to live “for the glory of Christ” remains the motivation that prods and provokes me every day. Wherever I find the hindrances of my own peculiar afflictions—not to mention my ordinary human limitations and follies, distractions, rashness, fear, misjudgments—in other words, wherever I find the hindrances of my own weakness, I know that I can only offer this weakness. I can’t become discouraged because I see no purpose to it, no achievements springing forth from it. If God’s power is made perfect in weakness, it happens in mysterious ways that I believe are real even if I don’t see them (yet). Perhaps mostly it’s the Spirit’s power working to heal and transform—in His time—all my broken places, His work of making something new out of the train-wreak-of-a-human-being that I am after 60 years and 8 months of life.

I pray for a deeper gratitude to God my Father—for everything, and for a greater compassion and mercy toward my brothers and sisters, near and far. I desire to be this way, and cannot make myself this way by my own power. Jesus, save me! Come Holy Spirit! I desire and I ask God. I try to walk in the darkness and I fall down. To get up and try again, I need Him to increase my desire and my plea for mercy. I am totally poor in myself. I am a “need,” a cry for mercy that is nevertheless full of hope because He is here. Jesus. He has come to be with us and walk with us. This is what matters.

Okay, I’m really tired now.