"As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni [son of my trouble]. BUT his father named him Benjamin [son of my right hand]."
Growing up I felt pretty sure I knew who I was. My mentally ill father told me constantly how he saw me. He had a vicious side to him and the verbal abuse was unrelenting and only one of the ways in which he tormented us. If we did anything he didn’t like (which was often) we were just like our mother whom he hated. If we did something he liked, we were just like him. It was confusing and painful. A child will internalize it and just like their name, it becomes who they are. I grew up thinking I was less than and unworthy, a sentiment that followed me well into adulthood.
However, God stepped into my path and said “but”.
Rachel may have called Ben a curse and blamed her innocent child for her own death, but Jacob stepped in and changed the narrative. I love that he had experienced his own moment of renaming by God from Jacob to Israel in the prior verses. So, identity was not lost on him. He probably took that small bundle of kicking joy, kissed his tiny head and said “no”, he was the “son of his right hand”. The right hand has lots of significance in Jewish culture and in biblical references. It signifies blessing, inheritance, strength and favor. In essence Jacob, or rather Israel, had a moment of clarity and gave Ben what he needed, a new name, a new identity. Not a curse, but a blessing.
It’s the same with us.
….And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate.
O my friends, we are not accidents, we are not unredeemable and we are not set in our broken ways. It’s a subtle lie that the enemy wants us to believe to keep us from what God wants to do in our lives.
God longs to rename us into his identity. He wants us to stop telling ourselves what the world and even our own parents pronounce over us and change it to what he says about us. I am no longer the daughter of a monster, but the daughter of the king. He remade me and said I was to be at his right hand. Isn’t that awesome?
“God, please help me see that my identity is not what others tell me it is, I’m not broken, unusable and cursed, but I am made whole in you, I am a vessel that you will use and you bless me. Help me to see I am your child and no one else’s. Amen”.
Go, be Benjamin!
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
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 about my weaknesses, so that
Christ’s power may rest on me.
Okay, even I’ll admit that my reaction to the title of this blog hits me square in the gut.
Weakness is cool? Really? Can I put that in the “not” category?
We are a nation of doing things, better, faster, stronger. Even the number one New Year’s
resolution is “getting fit” or stronger as it were. We value strength, we celebrate it and
most times we are envious of those who seem to have it. It’s in books, commercials and
TV shows. When was the last time the hero of the story was what we consider a wimp?
It’s not something we celebrate.
We see the desire for being personally strong in our bodies, in our minds, and our
emotions. Let’s face it, we want everyone to perceive us as rock solid in everything. We
feverishly cover the cracks of any frailties when they leach out.
Yet, God says something very interesting to Paul in the second letter to the Corinthian
church. He shared something vital that defies the notion of what it is to be strong.
When Paul asked God to deliver him from a weakness, or a thorn in the flesh, God’s
response was straightforward. Paul’s weakness was the conduit for God’s power.
Scholars don’t really know exactly what the thorn was, some speculate it was weak
eyesight, yet others think it was his guilt of the actions in his past, while even others say
it was the persecution around him from the Jewish leaders of his time that stymied him.
Whatever it was, it remained, unchanged. Yet, it was to be the primary way in which God
Our weakness = God’s strength. Pretty remarkable. Yet, something I don’t really want to
hear. I don’t want to struggle with a weakness.
I want to be the triumphant woman made of steel, able to leap pettiness in a single bound.
To crush emotional frailties with my amazing intellect. To be the one that everyone looks
at and admires because of the sheer might of my will. I do not want to be labeled weak,
broken or flawed. Admittedly, I hide those cracks in my armor. I don’t put them out
there because I want to be the perfect woman who has every aspect of my life under
control. But I don’t and I suspect you don’t either.
My reactions to my weaknesses are typically self-loathing or condemnation. The internal
dialogue has me chiding myself when I mess up or can’t handle something like I think I
should. Yet, we are to boast in our shortcomings because God is going to show up there.
It’s hard to think about putting our “ugly” out there, but we should be willing to expose it.
I’m not saying it’s a free pass to just keep indulging in it, but to let down the wall around
it and letting God into it. I’m also not saying to stop a stranger on the street and tell them
your most intimate details. Yikes! A trusted friend is a great place to start.
But, before you run the other way, let me encourage you in all of this. God loves our
frailties, our brokenness and our messiness, where we don’t know how to overcome
something, BECAUSE, he wants to be the one to infuse us with his power in that thing
that undoes us. Really, he is the only one who can. We have to be willing to invite him
into that very uneasy space of the things we can’t seem to get a grip on.
He not only wants to give us power in it, he wants to give his perfect power. And
sometimes the only way for him to work is to get us out of the way. Too many times I
find ways to do something without ever seeking God in it. If I feel strong or capable in
something I tend to forget to seek God in it because I feel like I have it all under control.
I get in the way of God by not going to him first.
So, stop beating yourself up in your broken moments or weakness. That part of yourself
is the part that God is the closest to and he wants to work through it.
A broken pot can be mended by the potter. Sometimes he mends the crack, sometimes he
God, please help me to stop beating myself up over my weakness or confirming I am
“less than” in my own head. Come into this place and act according to your promise
that you want your perfect power in my weakness. Help me to trust you with it and
rejoice that you have it all under control. To that end, take away my own self-judgment
about the inability to overcome and teach me to seek you in it and to be honest outwardly
about my weakness, flaws, and broken places. Use them to your glory. Amen