I thought my heart would shatter into a million pieces when I heard the words. Today is your last day. I felt a huge silent sigh escape my lips. It was not a sigh of relief. I felt I could no longer breathe. My mind went blank. My mind whirled with a thousand thoughts. Why is this happening to me? Again? I wondered. Oh. I had been laid off before. Twice before. But years went by between each layoff. And birthdays occurred. I was older each time. And this time, I wondered if my career was over. It happens. Older workers have a harder time than younger workers finding jobs. It’s a fact. Oh. They won’t say you’re too old. They can’t. But they can hedge. They can find other reasons not to hire someone “past their prime”.
The same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives us. That’s what the song says. That’s what the Bible says. Why did I suddenly feel powerless? Why did it feel as if my power had just been taken away? Where is my identity anyway? Is it in a job? A title? A paycheck? I don’t like to think so. But when those things are suddenly gone, what’s left? Power is one thing. But so is security.
For when I am weak, then I am strong. Sounds like an oxymoron. Feels like an impossible stretch. But the apostle Paul knew how that felt. Oh. He begged God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh. But God never removed it. So Paul learned to rely on God’s power. He learned that he must depend on God in those moments of weakness. Not on himself. He was strengthened by God through his weakness. But what does that mean? What does that look like? Is that even real? Or possible? Can I do this?
I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I remember when I took swimming lessons. It was a 6-week course. The first thing we needed to master was floating face down. I’d never been in a pool. Being in a body of water where I couldn’t touch the bottom was unnerving. Floating face down was frightening. Very frightening. I was taught to relax. It’s easier said than done. Because this thing could kill me. Literally. So I learned calmness and relaxation. I let myself go and float face down. The master teacher was always nearby. Ready to catch me if I needed help.
One lesson in particular I remember. We floated down the pool and around the bend. The lesson that day was to learn to get myself in an upright position after floating face down. I was having trouble. I couldn’t master the act of bringing myself to an upright position. I was struggling. Oh. I knew the steps it took to move into the position, but I wasn’t strong enough. I tried over and over. At one point, it felt as if I was going under and never coming back up. Where was my instructor? I thought. It felt as if I was drowning. It was a feeling of total helplessness. Will she let me drown? I wondered. By some miracle, I was finally able to get myself in an upright position. Coughing. Sputtering. Deep breaths. I now knew the feeling of drowning. It wasn’t good.
She never came to rescue me. Oh. She was watching. She was close by. But she allowed me to struggle until I had the strength to endure and survive. I had to dig deep and find the will to conquer my fear and trust myself and the water. It was a hard lesson.
I never went back to swimming lessons. Oh. I had my reasons. Petty excuses. I never learned to swim. I still remember that helpless feeling of sinking in the water. The water that could cause my demise. Oh. I would still love to learn to swim. But now I know the cost. The price I must pay in order to feel comfortable in a situation beyond my control. Where the monster. The beast. Is bigger than me. It’s bigger than life. It’s ever moving and flowing all around me. Where it engulfs and consumes me. Where the current can take me out to sea. I don’t like that feeling. I like to be in control of my situation. So I gave up.
I now find myself in a situation that’s out of my control. Oh. I have good days. I have not so good days. I’m learning to float face down in God’s love. I’m learning to let go and face my fears. I’m learning to breathe underwater. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not my comfort zone. Sometimes I wonder if the struggle will ever end. But I keep doing the work I need to do to get to the other side of this battle.
I know my God is watching. He’s close by. Oh. I know he could rescue me in an instant if he chose. But he’s allowing me to struggle. I don’t know how long this will continue, so I have to be prepared for the long haul. I have to dig deep in God’s love and learn to relax and not fight what I can’t control. It isn’t easy. I have to trust that God’s power is working through me. It’s in the struggle that strength is born.