Author and businessman Harvey Mackay told the story of a ten-year-old boy named Mark who wanted to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in an automobile accident.
Mark began his lessons with an aged Japanese judo master and was doing well. But after three months had passed and he had only been taught one move, he questioned the master. “This is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” was the master’s reply.
Perplexed, but trusting, Mark kept training and several months later entered his first tournament. Surprising himself, Mark won the first two matches. The third match was more difficult, but soon his opponent became impatient and charged. Mark deftly used his lone move to win the match. He was now in the finals, but this time his opponent was much larger, much stronger, and far more experienced. Mark was nervous, and it was showing in the match. The referee, concerned for Mark’s welfare, called a time-out. He was about to stop the seemingly imbalanced match when Mark’s master intervened, “Let him continue.”
The match resumed, and Mark’s opponent made a critical mistake. Instantly, Mark used his move to pin him, winning the match and the tournament. On the way home, Mark reviewed all his matches and moves with his master, finally summoning the courage to ask the question on his mind: “How did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the judo master answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”1
Mark’s weakness had become his greatest strength.
Each one of us has a generous assortment of weaknesses that we’d desperately like to replace.We struggle in our relationships. We know our marriage could be better. We are not the parents we always thought we’d be. Our children seem to bring out the worst in us. Our weaknesses are magnified every day and, worse, we are now noticing them in our children. We feel defeated and powerless. We know things could be better if we could just change . . . but we can’t.
In our jobs, many of us have come to the depressing realization that we’re not quite as talented or gifted as we thought we were. Others are passing us by.
We have tried for years to corral impure thoughts and pursue holiness with no real progress. We’re racked by guilt every time we gossip but we can’t seem to stop. “White lies” make us look and sound better and seem to come without thought or effort.
Our bodies fail. Diabetes, heart problems, bad backs, stomach ailments, incontinence, migraines, worn-out joints, bad vision, and many other ailments weaken us. Emotionally we become more and more fragile; stress and anxiety torment us. Increasingly smaller things bother us, and our emotional batteries run down quicker than they used to.
Weakness frightens us; we want to feel bold and powerful.The common perception is that weakness equals lack of power.
The logic seems clear and obvious. But it’s wrong. The biblical perspective on weakness is counterintuitive, and therein lays its great advantage. For a Christian, weakness does not equal lack of power. In fact, we need to understand and accept a new paradigm: Our weakness is an opportunity to experience God’s power!
1 Harvey Mackay, “Weakness can be a great motivator,” Orange County Register, 3/27/2000.