N.T. Wright likes to point out that the message of the New Testament is that real power is in weakness, and real change, real goodness, comes when we are weak enough to ask for help. Examples are Mother Teresa, the Apostle Peter, Muthama Ghandi, William Wilberforce, and, most notable and most powerfully, the Nazarene. The power of God working through them changed the world, and the entire spiritual universe.
Ravi Zacharias tells about an Egypt-Israel border crossing he and his family undertook. During the transit, Israeli soldiers began to challenge his reasons for entering their country. It was a tense time geo-politically. Right when the pitch of the interaction reached a near-tipping point, Ravi’s 4 year-old daughter, the smallest and physically weakest person in the room, spoke to one of the soldiers, “Hi. Can I have something to drink?” Immediately, a smile came over the soldier’s face. He set down his gun and left the room for a few minutes and came back with a tray of lemonade and glasses. The Zacharias family exited the stop-point 10 minutes later.
Bill Bryson’s book, “A Short History of Pretty Much Everything,” is a fascinating book about the origins of our universe, how scientists came to know so much, and it is written in a way that normal people like me can understand and enjoy. It is well-researched and written with Bryson’s engaging wit. As the book progresses from describing very large things, like galaxies, to increasingly-tiny objects such as atoms and neutrons, there is more and more talk about power, and understanding the mysteries of God, particularly among the quoted, and now dead, scientists.
I didn’t realize until I read it just a few days ago that an atom consists of a tiny nucleus and is surrounded by a giant (relatively speaking) electron cloud. The electron cloud is so vast that when atoms are stacked together, most of the construct is cloud. Small particles aimed at it pass right through. That means that you and I, composed of trillions of trillions of atoms, are mostly electron cloud. Wow. How could a Creator get from an atom, fluffy and open, to something so complex as a human being?
Here is another facet about an atom. Each contains an immense amount of energy. Consider that splitting an atom creates a violent, nuclear, explosion. There is an immense power within each atom holding the protons and neutrons in the nucleus. They would otherwise separate and fly out. That “power” has to match the terrible force pushing outward, that of the nuclear force, as you and I might understand it.
So much power in weakness, in a child and in the smallest of things. It runs against our natural understanding of might, that which values the size of the army, arsenal or checkbook. It is one of the great pardoxes in life that none of these conventional seats of power has changed the world, at least for good, to the degree done through Mother Teresa, the small but fiesty Jesus-follower who rescued so many.
We see so much of this life-bringing power in our hospice patients. Those humans who have resigned themselves to a soon physical death speak with new authority, real wisdom, and previously broken relationships are made new. After their deaths, their family members many times come together, galvanized by their common grief, which while soaking them with sadness, has the power to give them maturity and wisdom. It appeals to them to draw closer into things that matter- their loved ones, those in need, and the Nazarene.
If you are like me, and most of us have so many commonalities, there are areas in your soul that need mending. There are scars that hurt and require healing. There is un-wholesomeness that needs cleaning. And there is a waywardness that needs calling. Can I tell you that you will never find who you really are and the fixes to your problems by “empowering” yourself. Like Peter, you will find your particular mission hidden in Christ’s soul (I’m paraphrasing Balthasar here).
He is the broken One, the pierced King, a Ruler whose strange glory of the cross He wants to be yours in abundance, but is available only to those who join His suffering and death. Can you see why we love hospice so much?