“I am seeing more and more that we begin to learn what it is to walk by faith when we learn to spread out all that is against us: all our physical weakness, loss of mental power, spiritual inability – all that is against us inwardly and outwardly – as sails to the wind and expect them to be vehicles for the power of Christ to rest upon us. It is so simple and self-evident – but so long in the learning!” Diary – 22 August 1902
Small vessel, large body of water. Clear sea, blue skies, and a mountain view. Sailing is smooth in calm weather but all that is needed to put that fragile craft at risk is a gust of wind from a sudden squall.
Small vessel, large body of water – a perfect picture of my vulnerability to the storms that assail me – outwardly or inwardly. “Physical weakness. . . loss of mental powers. . . spiritual inability. . . .” Any of these could be enough to capsize the craft of my fragile self. More often it is all the above that conspire to my collapse – each swell or wave converging in force: my physical state affecting my mental and emotional state, taking its toll on my spiritual well being.
Yet, within this very picture of vulnerability is the solution for survival. My knee-jerk response to the waves that buffet me is varied: recoil, resist, fight back, cave in. The antidote that Lilias presents, however, is straight from Scripture: take all that is against us – inner and outer – and hold them up as “sails” for God to empower. His “power is made perfect in weakness.” An exchange: my weakness for God’s power.
What is “against” me? At start, I have certain physical limitations which invariably takes its toll on other areas of my life – my state of mind, my emotions. And there are the outward forces which, like those summer squalls, come unexpectedly, often defeating me if not in body in soul. I must take all that is against me – inwardly and outwardly – and spread my weaknesses as sails for God’s power.
What might this look like for another? The particulars will be individual: physical weakness (sleeplessness from night shifts with an infant, chronic pain, a permanent disability) – sails for God’s power. . . loss of mental powers (relentless work pressures, pressing demands with studies, financial stress, depression ) – sails for God’s power. . . spiritual inability (character deficiencies, addictions, doubt, moral temptation even failure) – sails for God’s power. . . .
Storms beyond our control assail us throughout life. We pray the plight of the Breton fisherman:
“Lord, Your sea is so vast,
and my little boat is small.
God answers: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(Drawing from 1877 pocket sketchbook: France/Switzerland/Venice)