There’s a Bimisayo that exists in my mind. You would love him: He’s smart, funny, generous and always passionate about life and about his faith. He isn’t perfect, and he’d tell you that but you’d have a hard time believing him.
I like to think I really am that guy, and in a way, I am. God has made some amazing changes in my life over the last few years. I really enjoy looking back and seeing how I’ve grown in wisdom and maturity, even just in the last few months. I’m in the process of raising support for my one year internship in Uganda starting this fall, a process which involves one-on-one meetings with people who’ve known me for different lengths of time. I’ve been encouraged by the responses of people as I’ve approached them for support: friends, family, and current and past church family have been generous with their words of encouragement and their finances. God’s grace has been so good in transforming my character.
One flaw of the human heart, though, is its inability to spot its own flaws. I genuinely have trouble seeing the blind spots in my character and I need God’s grace to reveal these to me. Though freeing and exciting, grace fully experienced will hurt sometimes.
Jeremiah 17:9 teaches, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I’ve always been fascinated by this verse, and I decided to look into the context. In the preceding verses, God declares that cursed is the man who relies on his own strength while the man who trusts in God is blessed. This verse is immediately followed by a promise that God judges man and gives to each one what they deserve.
According to scripture, we are not able to see what is righteous in us from what is unrighteous, yet we will earn the consequences of our unrighteousness. In the Old Testament, He uses the prophets to call people back to Him. We see in Isaiah 6:9-10 one instance where the hearts of the people were dull so that the message of the prophet would actually serve to increase their blindness. Apart from God’s grace, the deceitfulness of our hearts would lead us to a similar place.
In the New Testament we are not only called to grow in Christ-like character, but we are also blessed to endure discipline from God to help us grow. Life is allowed to happen in such a way as to show us our weaknesses to help us grow.
During the school year, a friend shared an interesting thought with me. She shared that she would sometimes pray for God to take her through tough times to make her stronger, dreading the reality that God would answer her. In my braver moments I’ve imitated this prayer, not because I enjoy seeing myself as weak, but because I value the character I know will be built in me. I know myself. Unless I am made to feel the consequences of my failings, I won’t see them; unless I’m brought through situations beyond my ability to bear, I remain unmotivated to pursue growth.
Grace shows us our imperfections, reveals the warped aspects of our nature, and assures us that God’s love is passionately drawing us closer to the image of His Son. That last part is vital to remember when our weaknesses are exposed. God is not shocked by the blind spots in our character; He will not abandon us in disgust.
Remember the Bimisayo I introduced to you at the beginning of this post? Well, I recently learned that he’s often stubborn and lacks discipline in many areas of life and that leads him into trouble. He can be smart, but also difficult to teach. He has a lot of passion, but it sometimes fades because he isn’t diligent in guarding it. He can be funny, though he often takes jokes farther than he realizes.
I want to grieve over my weaknesses. A part of me really wants to shut down and focus on the negative, convinced that I’m not suitable to be used by God in any meaningful way. How can I be a light to the nations, if I can’t manage myself?
God’s grace, however, doesn’t stop at revealing my weakness. He reminds me that He’s not done with me. If He was, He would be content to leave me as I am, thinking I am more than I am and ultimately useful to no one. But His grace draws me to growth. Hebrews 12,12-13, following a promise of God’s discipline of His people, teaches: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” He disciplines us, not to break us, but to refine us.
I remember an essay in grade 12 English that I submitted for a rough draft. I was quite proud of my work and sure my teacher would see it the same way. In my mind, he would correct the few grammar errors I’d intentionally left for him (part of the mark for the final draft was based on improvement) and tell me I did a good job. The paper was returned full of red ink, much to my shock. But his brutal corrections allowed me to submit a much better final than I would have otherwise.
God’s grace doesn’t leave us broken. He exposes our weaknesses to remind us that He’s not done with us. He’s not finished with me. Someday I’m going to look back on myself today and rejoice that I was so marked up with red ink. The final draft of my life is not yet written, but I trust that it’ll be pretty awesome.