I am strong.
The ensemble sounded strong, rehearsing the prelude before yesterday morning’s service at Bethany Lutheran Church. Until I decided to add a couple beats to the first ending. Or maybe it was a full measure.
Everyone rolled with it—I was playing the melody—but after the final cutoff, I said, “Well now, I guess I decided those extra beats belonged there, because that’s how I would have written it.” Everyone chuckled. We’d all been there.
Oh my, that I can be SO strong. As Franciscan Father Richard Rohr notes, having a strong sense of identity and boundaries—a strong ego—is important. But though the I might look and sound good on the outside, that imperial I often hides the truth:
I am phony and self-serving.
Suffering is the only thing strong enough to destabilize the imperial ego.
“At the cross you learn humility, patience, compassion, and all of the virtues that really matter,” Rohr states. “Sooner or later, life is going to lead you (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a place where you can’t fix it. You can’t control it, and you can’t explain it or understand it… Suffering is the only thing strong enough to destabilize the imperial ego.”
The imperial I’s humiliations.
Pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, life’s absurdities. Rohr: “God’s freely given grace is a humiliation to the ego because free gifts say nothing about being strong, superior, or moral.”
So, yesterday I smiled and reminded myself of another song on another Sunday: Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart… Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word… O ruler of all.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
After rehearsal, I rubbed and flexed my fingers. An arthritis flare-up in the fourth finger of left hand was bothering me, despite the anti-inflammatory medication, and swelling had prevented me from wearing my engagement and wedding rings. I admit to feeling not quite dressed without them. But I knew from other times when my stamina was challenged: I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
I also knew I was in good company, not only in church with my fellow musicians but also in community with other bloggers. Over the weekend, Sally—Theology of a Newfoundland Housewife—wrote about the challenge of opening jars as she’s aged. She started a training program to build strength in her hands and arms. And quoted 2 Corinthians 12:10 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.
As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:25, …the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
If you wish, give it a listen to yesterday’s service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQDPQ6hdh2Y
“How Great Thou Art” is the prelude, starting at the 2-minute mark, and “Jesus, Name Above All Names” at minute 51. For the latter, my “imperial ego” is off camera to the right, though the end of my flute and music sand are visible. Appropriate, don’t you think?
This week’s link up with Five Minute Friday: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2021/07/15/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-strong/
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A very nice sounding group of musicians Carole. We sing those songs often.
Thanks,Gary. We’re a “come one, come all” group, making a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 are found on the cover of my writing notebook. This verse helps to remind me whom my “real” strength is grounded with.
Amen, Richard, Amen.