To teach me humility, a thorn in the flesh was given me. Three times I appealed to the Lord to deliver me. But the Lord answered me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9-10
I have gotten much from Jacob Armstrong’s book Playlist: Hearing Jesus in a Noisy World.
When he identified his “playlist,” the songs he programmed into his phone so he would hear them over and over again, he found that he had been hard-wired with three lies! (1) I have to do everything; (2) I have to say Yes to everything; (3) I have to be the best at everything.
Here’s the way it translated into my life. I was the third born in my family. My sister, Judi, was five years older; my brother, Dick, was a year and a half older. He was the superstar—valedictorian of his high school class, about three inches taller, and a star athlete. My parents were very affirming, took care to treat us equally. My brother never held his successes over me; we are best friends today. But I drew my own conclusions and held them secretly in my self-esteem. I never felt I was good enough, tall enough, smart enough, fast enough. This was my “playlist;” or, in the Apostle Paul’s terminology, this was my “thorn in the flesh.” It drove me, and I took it into adulthood. I worked all the harder to catch up, to be good enough; but no matter how many accomplishments I secretly kept in my imaginary trophy cabinet, it was never enough.
In college, I began to feel a need to connect personally with God. What prodded me to look up was that I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life, or what to major in. There is a saying, maybe Buddhist, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” Into my life stepped some fervent Christians who were willing to tell me their story. They clearly had something I lacked, something my sleepy little Presbyterian church in small town Indiana had not given me. It was a personal connection with God; and it was clear that, for them, that connection had been activated by Jesus. So I began reading the Gospels, for the first time not as just history, but as if it were addressed personally to me. I began to hear a new playlist in my inner consciousness, and it was good news. Really good news.
My “thorn,” oddly enough, became the prod that made me reach out for Christ and discover that I was not alone in experiencing “salvation”—My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Thanks be to God!