My shoulder hurts. I know that I am not the only one with shoulder pain, but I am reminded every time the weather changes that I’m not what I used to be. Sometimes its other things, but in these weeks it’s my shoulder. And we live in an area where the weather forecast looks more like a combination of a dad joke and a set of lottery numbers. “It will be sunny and dry, unless it’s cloudy and rains, with highs this week of 42, 75, 24, 58, 82, and the lucky number 17.” Sometimes I forget I’m limited, but when my shoulder hurts I don’t have the luxury if ignorance! I can’t lift things I otherwise could. I have to change my time to do more of what I can and less of what I can’t. I stay active where I can and don’t put time into what I can’t do. My injuries like to rotate, and right now my shoulder is taking a turn and reminding me, “You’re old.”
I used to hate it! Pain is what it is, but it was the limits and reality of weakness that stung my soul. Until I was in my early twenties I thought I was unstoppable. That is, until I was stopped. Now, I can’t quite go like I used to. I’ll never be as strong and quick as before those moments. My brain just isn’t as clear as it once was and doesn’t always connect to my words. But over the years, that sting has turned into a soothing salve for my soul. The accumulation of experiential souvenirs that scar my aging body remind me that I never was really unstoppable, just really ignorant. And this is something I needed to learn then and still have the privilege of learning on a regular basis when the weather (or sleeping/sitting/standing wrong – amiright?) reminds me, “You’re old.”
While I used to hate these times that remind me of what I never really anyways, I’ve had to learn to embrace them. I mean – there’s honestly nothing I can do about it! Time marches on and never takes an about face. While I don’t enjoy the pain and limitations, I do embrace them as God’s plan to help remind me that I have always been weak, even if I didn’t always know that. The reality is, it’s God’s plan for you to learn too. Whether or not it’s an injury or aging, there’s a day coming when the gentle (or even not-so-gentle) reality occurs that you are limited, weak, and not what you thought you were. Not just because of injuries, but really because God’s plan for you in the Gospel is to reveal through the rest of your life just how weak you really are.
This is, after all, the very essence of faith and belief in God!
God Himself took on the form of a servant, took on the weakness of human flesh, and then died the death of a sinner. And it is through this position of weakness and death that He is seen as the One who is exalted and lifted high, having the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:1-11). The One who has all power – who has the heavenly armies at his beck and call, who can literally speak and make a universe, who can simply tell powerful storms “hush” and they have to, who even controls death and life – showed His unstoppable power through death on a Cross. If Jesus flipping tables or calling out Pharisees are your favorite stories of Jesus’s power, you’re missing the real story of the Bible (and misinterpreting those stories!). The One who is literally unstoppable showed His power through earthly weakness, service, love, and sacrifice to reveal the truth to the world. The followers He chose had no earthly power or authority. Jesus’s pattern of life that He chose to take on and call us to on this earth is this: Take up your cross and follow Me. Serve the lowly. Be the least. Be humble. Speak the truth in love. Be weak, for His power is made perfect in your weakness.
When you learn this, you’ll see that while you are stoppable, God is unstoppable. You are limited, but He is unlimited. Your attempt to live life is inadequate, but the life He gives is abounding, everlasting, eternal, and fulfilling. God’s design for your life is to show you that when you are weak, He is strong.
And so while I don’t enjoy the pain and limitations, I am grateful for the reminder and embrace these things as the beautiful work of God in making me like Jesus. God is so good to help me see I need more than me in this life. I need Him. God is so good to help me see more needs to be done that what I can do in this life. He is the One who can do all things. And the Gospel helps me see that He provides what I need and does more than I could ever do. Aging is the gift God gives to help us never forget these things about Him.
Today, what is God using to remind you of your limits and that you need Him more than anything else? Thank Him for that. Aging, injury, and illness are not preferred realities, but are powerful reminders of who God is.