Posted: 01/06/2011 in Musings, Personal Walk, Running the Race

I don’t like feeling weak.

At the same time, I don’t like being seen as weak or incapable even more.

When I was a little kid I was quite certain of my favorites:

Gaming Systems = Nintendo
Toys = Legos
Cartoons = Gummi Bears… then Ninja Turtles (We all have phases)
Candy = Gummi Bears… not a phase
Holidays = Christmas
Dogs = German Shepherd
Dinosaurs = Triceratops

Fish = The Pufferfish

The pufferfish is awesomely bizarre, and between visits to aquariums or PBS specials when it came to choosing a favorite fish, nothing else came close.

Let’s be serious, anything that can inflate its body to three times its size deserves to be appreciated. But their coolness for me wasn’t just about the size, because all pufferfish, even though they might not be apparent, have pointed spines. So, when a predator sets its eyes, and jaws, on this unassuming prey, they end up with a large pointy beach ball instead of vulnerable tasty acquiescing snack. EVEN IF this attacker is able to manage the sheer size and discomfort, AND avoid suffocation … they now have a stomach full of tetrodotoxin, because this amazing little fish is also believed to be the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world.

As I have gotten older, I have realized that the pufferfish is an effective model for how I behave sometimes. Like I said earlier I really don’t like being seen as weak, not that many people do. It makes me feel vulnerable and ineffective. So what do I do? I resort to “Pufferfish-ery”

If I can feign being bigger, better more impressive than I really am, then I am good to go. Talk up accomplishments, use big words, spout out heady ideas, or just talk for a really, really long time.

If that doesn’t work, there is always room to inflate more. Sadly, when I feel the most weak and vulnerable I have the final defensive inflation to modify and reshape the truth (it’s called lying) in order to feel secure and safe.

Like the pufferfish, it feels like an automatic defensive response; I have become aware that I often don’t even realize that I am doing it.

Over this past week I have felt so decidedly outside of my comfort zone and unsure in my abilities. Last night this really came to a head and, by God’s grace and the council of a wise, good friend, I was spared from royally “stuffing up” a situation. As I reflected on this afterward I made some realizations…

1. I am weak

I know you aren’t supposed to admit this, but… i am weak.  I so often don’t know what I am supposed to do, what the right action is, how to lead well.

I do firmly believe that “I am fearfully, and wonderfully made,” (Ps 139:14)  but I also am beginning to think “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30

2. When I respond to this with Pufferfish-ery, I ignore my weakness and fill myself up with “myself”

I don’t know if I could have put a more specific and concise definition to sinful PRIDE: To fill myself up with myself. For many of you this might seem like “good self-esteem,” because that is what we are taught, but, like the Pufferfish, the reality is I am full of hot air… well water, but you get the point.

“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:3)

Last night as I couldn’t sleep I began looking at this and I was amazed at how ubiquitous the call against this pride is in the Bible. While I could list pages of verses about pride and boasting, what comes most solidly to mind is the Gospel. Because:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8

This was what Jesus taught.  That no matter how we tried, no matter how much effort we expended, no matter how good or strong we think we are… we will never be anything but broken, and weak, apart from Him.

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,  he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.”(1 Tim 6:3-4)

3. God is strong

If I am more aware than ever that I am weak, I also am more aware than ever how amazingly powerful and infinitely in control God is.

Earlier in the week I was thinking about trust and I mentioned the following verse:

And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?
N U M B E R S 1 4 : 1 1

If the Bible is clear about how much we NEED God, it is even more explicit about great and mighty God is.

For an amazing comparison of weakness to God’s strength there isn’t a book much more appropriate than Job. While I have struggled for years with this book, I’ve only recently began to see that so much of this book is God, through difficult trials, reminding Job that he isn’t self-sufficient and strong while grounding Job in the truth that God is. Job 40-41  is such a testament to the statement “Inasmuch as we are weak, God is strong.”

4. When I acknowledge that I am weak, that God is strong, I fill myself up with his Spirit

So where do I, “master-of-pufferfish-ery,” go from here? Honestly, I think Job’s response at the beginning of Job 42 is an awesome place to start:

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent [or take comfort] in dust and ashes.” (Job 42: 1-6)

Job saying “therefore I despise myself” sounds so strange to us, but it is his confession that he is weak. The amazing thing is Job said in worship, and praise, and comfort because he now knows that God is his strength, his joy, his everything.

So I sit here praying for humility and reminding myself:

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God… so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 25,27-29,30)

And finally:

“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 of 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 Cor 12:9-10)

  1. Cara says:

    Yay for this good discovery! It’s always nice to discover such things ‘before’…not ‘after’ 🙂

    • mgmstudious says:

      Thanks Cara 🙂 Hey I didn’t realize you blogged. Here’s to keeping up on a life downtown 🙂

      BTW wish Happy Birthday to Ricky for me… I might be wrong, but I thought it was a couple days ago.

  2. Mike, from one pufferfish to another, you have been a brilliant leader to me and everyone at the Crossing. Sometimes, I try to imagine the weight that you’ve been carrying… but I never quite understand. Just know that God works through you every day, and I felt confident advising our friend to let you, Danny, and Adam protect her. You show all of us more of who God is.

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