Power simply means the ability to do something. This definition sounds bland, but I think most of us feel a sense of the comic book speech bubble “POW!!!” when we think of power. Why is this? Perhaps we take for granted the tasks we find seemingly effortless, and perhaps we only recognize the concept of power when that experience exceeds our normal expectation.
I am grateful for these extraordinary experiences, because they offer a glimpse into God’s nature of omnipotence. The tasks I marvel at having been accomplished are effortless to God. As a person who is trusting in Jesus Christ for every good thing I have or am, I am even more in awe that this power of God is something that is in inextricably a part of me through my Lord and Savior!
My human experience very often falls short of this omnipotent God, but my spiritual journey threads the story of my weakness and His strength. As such, I can begin to understand what Paul meant when he related God’s word to him, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV):
9 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Recognizing this theme, I will chronicle my trip to Nicaragua this February under these contrasting realities of my weakness and His power. My hope is to illuminate His omnipotence, as He can do it, and His kindness, as He gives what is needed to accomplish the task, because of His great love for us.
I had the privilege of participating in a women’s conference in Nicaragua for the purpose of equipping disciples from many rural churches who will be able to equip others. Beyond teaching and worshipping, we also served a local church through a service project. For those who know me well, this trip encapsulated most everything I love: world travel, attempting to understand a new culture, writing my own teaching material, teaching my own material, working with a unified team, and placed in a position to influence others in a spiritual way while receiving the same from them!
And as some of you know, I expected to go on this trip almost exactly one year ago, but just a few days beforehand, I became sick with the flu. I will never forget the words of the doctor: “You have the flu. So…….you could get on that plane, but really it’s a moral issue at this point.” I barely comprehended the truth of the situation, both from my hazed mind due to the high temperature and from my shocked spirit due to the fact that God had clearly blessed my preparation for the trip.
So the week before this year’s trip, to say that I felt spiritually weak would be accurate. At various points throughout the year, my heart was tested with questions like these: Do you really trust God? How will you react if you invest so much into this trip, again, and do not get to go? The week before, I fluctuated from elation to fear several times during a day, and I constantly felt the frailty of my flesh.
This weakness only made me more aware of God’s power. And so, when the hand surgeon told me that I needed to go to an oncologist for the surgery I needed to remove a mass in my left hand, I felt calm. There was nothing I could do, but God can.
When my husband’s debit card was stolen and a significant amount of money used from our bank account, I felt humor. Oh enemy, how obvious you are! There was nothing I could do, but God can.
But when my throat began to hurt and remind me of the flu last year, I felt panic. God provided a friend to lead me back. After prayer, I submitted that there was nothing I could do, but God can.
And God’s word sustained me. This particular passage, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, was sent to me via team member SH, then my bible app, and then a text from my dad. I needed God’s power to make this trip possible.
Sitting in the church service, feeling the loneliness of a language and cultural barrier, and trying my best to absorb and learn and participate, I felt so powerless to experience what I knew was mine—unity of the body of Christ!
Hearing TS’s beautiful, lulling voice on stage in Spanish, God comforted my heart with assurance. Hearing TS’s words begin to come out in English, tears of relief emerged! How much of our faith and our existence is contingent upon words! And yet, The Word, is not dependent upon words.
Visiting a home without running water, without plumbing, and without many luxuries I have always known, I felt so powerless that my normal, physical comforts were so much in contrast to these people. Team member KL said that she understood that it is by no merit of her own that her children had the privileges that these children do not. To experience the joy of painting a church across the street from a school, the children being so entertained by our work, the reflection of themselves in our “fancy” 15 passenger van, and the “crazy American lady” who ran so fast out of the house when some mice were uncovered during the painting job….was followed by the weakness of knowing that this whole village did not have drinking water.
Yet without all the commodities we take for granted, the people we met in Nicaragua were so kind, loving, and happy. They do not have a depression problem in their nation. I’m going to take a leap and say they don’t have an entitlement problem. They don’t have an attendance problem in their churches. They stand up to read the bible and pray. They don’t have a margin problem in their schedules.
When I told them on the first day of the conference that there had been a miscommunication with the ending time and that I still had whole session to go through, they acted as if I had just told them that the sky was blue. No action required? My brain was already rearranging my plan to accommodate scheduling, but I saw none of the American nervous glances at their watches or iphones, shifting in the seats, or getting up to leave in order to stay with their schedule. They just sat. So I kept talking. Simply beautiful.
The second day of teaching was really great. The translator and I had a nice groove, and although I never realized how many idioms and adjectives I used until my language was translated into Spanish, I felt like the message of their identity in Christ was coming through and I was so thankful for the time to speak these truths.
As I lifted up my bookbag from the edge of the pavilion, tons of big black ants swarmed on the cover flap. I quickly batted them off with my hand and kept lifting it up to my shoulder. As I did, I noticed hundreds coming out a pocket (no doubt enticed by the granola bars inside), and I dropped the bag to the floor. I am allergic to fire ants, which while prevalent in my home state of Texas, I have become adept at avoiding. These were not fire ants, but my hand started to feel tingly. Perhaps one bit me. The cold, numb, itchy sensation travelled up my arm to my armpit. By this time, I had told the team, and we were beelining it back to the guest house, where I had some liquid Benadryl. God had reminded me to bring some at the last minute. I was really hot and tired from standing up outside all day in the heat. I was hoping that maybe I was not really feeling the sensation crawling up my neck and inside my ears. My hand felt swollen but I couldn’t see a bite. Now my ears felt like they were imploding and my back itched and I was breathing slowly to dissipate the panic bells my body was sending me. Everything waist up itched and burned and my head was imploding, but my throat and breathing were perfect.
Back at the guest house, a cold shower did nothing to relieve the pain. Hives were everywhere, and I was beet red. LH helped convince me to take more Benadryl than I normally would and helped me put topical Benadryl and some cortisone on the hives.
Did you bring me here for this God? Did my class not need to hear the last day’s teaching? What is the game plan here, God?
My husband sent out a prayer request to our support team. One friend said God told her to pray during this time before she had a chance to read her email. Prayers were answered, and God said, “Yes!” I woke up in a drugged stupor, but hives were gone! Still a bit swollen and skin felt sunburned, but God’s power was perfected in the prayers of the saints!!!
Next morning, and last day of the conference, I felt weak. My lips still felt like lead was holding them down. I hadn’t had the chance to review my teaching notes, and they were the ones I had “perfected” the least!
Have I even made a difference, God? Did you speak to them through me? I can’t really tell.
I was really tired and just felt like crawling into a hole and crying.
A student came up to me with a gift. It was a beautiful fabric purse, with a hand-decorated note stating how much she had learned and appreciated me! In that powerless morning, I knew that God was working as He pleased and that He was pleased with my work! The tears that began in weakness inside, welled up in the joy of His power perfected.
We sang my favorite song, Espejos, or “Mirrors,” and God told me it’s all Him today. I didn’t need to worry. In my weakness, He would perfect his power. Just obey. Open my mouth and obey.
I have never experienced the power of God quite like when I was being translated. We were one. When I moved my hand to the side, she moved her hand to the side. When my voice grew louder, her voice grew louder, and as I lowered my voice, she lowered her voice. She mimicked my tone, my body, and I knew that the language was being translated in it’s totality. The pauses were so few, and the momentum so great, that I forget at times that I was being translated. I forgot that they did not understand English, or that I spoke English. Hearing my “echo” after every idea only amplified the power of my words! TS, who is bilingual, said later that she forgot the last day if she was hearing English or Spanish! Truly, truly, the Holy Spirit was the Teacher that day, and although we trust by faith this is the case every time we teach, I felt that I got to see the teachings’ power manifest among us!
And when I was saying things like this, “ Jesus tells us today: My Father, who is your Father, will give you anything you need for the task,” the Holy Spirit checked my spirit and confirmed that yes, the truth you saying in this very moment is the very truth that is being lived out in you in this very moment!
God’s grace was sufficient that day. No, ample.
I hope to be weak more often. I hope you will be weak too.
I am eternally grateful for your prayers and support throughout this small bit of my spiritual journey. May we see more and more of His “POW!!!”
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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.