On Transformation and Weakness Made Strong

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“Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing.” ~Marilyn Robinson in Gilead

We’ve easily spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on her smile. First it was the headgear, then pulled teeth, then braces, and retainers, and unbelievably, braces again. I need a part-time job to afford this child’s teeth. Her brother, fourteen and already free from the shackles of brackets and wires, teases her. She hates it, and smirks when she discovers a fifth grader she coaches will have their braces removed before her second set comes off.

She is a seventeen and over it.

She doesn’t smile the way she used to–open-lipped, wonderful, wide. She is closed-mouthed, covering the scaffolding of her teeth with pursed lips. She is not a child who should keep her mouth shut. She is all things bright and beautiful, and her new Mona Lisa smile is too subtle, too unlike her in every way. She is laughter. Now, she is laughter compressed, caught behind a cage.

I can’t relate to the frustration of finally achieving straight rows, and then beginning the process all over again because your teeth simply won’t behave. I never wore braces, but I have perfected my own Mona Lisa smile. It’s the smile that covers up the change taking place behind it. The smile that hides the weakness beneath the surface, and the complicated system I’ve rigged up to manage this perceived weakness.

I am weakness made strong in Christ.

I know this, but often, I don’t live this way. I forget that the agent of change in my life is not the systems I’ve created or the people I love or my inner drive for perfection. It is the power of God come alive in me through Christ. It is sufficient grace.

Transformation begins in the quiet chambers, in the deep darkness, but it doesn’t remain silent. It can’t be covered up by a pursed lip or a cupped hand or status symbols or false humility or aspirational quotes or trick mirrors. Transformation is ugly before it is beautiful. Our metamorphosis through faith can’t be contained. It is weakness made strong, crooked made straight, darkness made light. It is a miracle preparing.

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Coming soon: A giveaway of Shannan Martin‘s new book Falling Free. I received an advanced copy, and I wrestled with it for weeks. Shannan and her family left behind their comfortable jobs and their idyllic life on beautiful patch of farmland, to live among the urban poor and work in prison ministry. This book will shake you up, and quite honestly, I needed the shaking. Maybe you do too?

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