Boasting in My Infirmities (Like Paul)

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My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and compete and lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.                                                               -James 1:2-5

It always amazes me what end up being trials that God uses to help perfect our patience. I signed up with a direct sales company. I just wanted to get makeup at a good price, really. I thought that if I got into putting on makeup and stuff, it would be a thing that my teenage daughter and I could bond over. And I was right about that. But then I started reading about network marketing and how it’s all about relationships and helping people and loving them and serving them. And I thought, “Relationships and helping people and loving them and serving them? Seems like I’ve heard that before.” And I wondered if this would be the thing that God would use to get me to connect with more people and show them how Jesus has changed me.

What God uses to grow us and change us can be really…anticlimactic sometimes. Take selfies, for example. When I first started reading about the online marketing makeup business, I kept reading that the best thing you can do is take selfies and talk about how much you love the makeup. And I do love the makeup so that wouldn’t be a lie. But I don’t take selfies (or, at least, I didn’t). I don’t really like taking pictures – of anything. I don’t like getting my picture taken – by anyone – and I like even less the knowledge that other people will be looking at those pictures. But, it’s not about how the pictures look at all. I don’t think I look bad in pictures. Not generally speaking anyway. We all have bad hair days. It’s something else. Let’s start at the beginning…

The first clue I had to my own autism was my issues with eye contact. I can not maintain eye contact. It’s not like it makes me anxious or I feel like the other person is going to see the ugliness in my soul or whatever. My eyes and my brain don’t like to make eye contact. If I don’t focus energy into keeping my eyes on someone’s face, they will just dart back and forth or gaze off into space. I’m still listening, my eyes are just moving. It happens like blinking or breathing. If I don’t think about it, it just happens. If I focus hard enough on keeping my gaze “natural” (i.e. neurotypical-seeming) for it to work, it actually physically drains me until I won’t be able to talk anymore. Or I’ll cry. Imagine you were having a conversation while doing this:

Woman balancing on her hand with a stack of bowls on her head. Original image from TheColor.com.

It’s kind of like that, and it’s draining after a while, to say the least. That’s a part of my issue with eye contact.

The other part is that it reminds me that people are looking at me. Again, this is not about insecurity, this one is about anxiety. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m worried about something bad happening to my family or I am not sure if I checked the door or I try to drive without singing to the radio. Having people look at me gives me a tight-chested feeling that I can only liken to the feeling I had after my sedan got rear-ended by a 3/4 ton pickup truck. Or getting hit in the chest with a medicine ball. The after math of that bone-jarring shock is what runs through me when I think of talking on the phone or meeting new people or talking to unfamiliar people. And when people are looking at me. Any people. It doesn’t matter if I know them or not. If I’m comfortable with them or not. If I love them with every ounce of my being or hate them with all my soul. They have eyes that see me, they stress me out. Maybe I should just hang out with blind people. =)

Having a camera lens “looking” at me and knowing that people will look at the pictures evokes the same feeling. It’s getting better, but the idea of it, most of the time, is really nauseating. And then, I post the pictures and people comment and tell me they’re really good and I look good and my makeup is awesome or whatever. And they’re good pictures (I only post the good ones, LOL!) but it really makes it worse, in a way. Because it reminds me that they looked at “me.” Which is not their fault. I posted it so they would look at it. And I am glad they didn’t think it was terrible. And, emotionally and intellectually, I like getting the comments. So if you are one of the lovely people who comment on my selfies, please don’t stop. It’s just a physical reaction. I’m not unhappy, I’m just nauseated. If that makes sense.

But I am coming to understand that connection is worth the anxiety. If love is not just a warm feeling in my heart but things I do, that goes for love of Christ and love of his people. I can not claim to love God and then ignore his command to love his people because it makes me uncomfortable. Or anxious. Or spend the next day in bed. And I can not love them if I am not a part of them. Every week, I teach a lesson at BSF and the whole process makes me…ill, literally. By Friday, I end up spending at least four hours on the couch feeling like I have a fever or the flu, just from BSF using all my spoons. No matter how carefully I guard my spoons, no matter how carefully I mete out my energy, I will be wasted on Friday. Sometimes Tuesday, too. But I do it because I think that’s what God is calling me to, right now. They do God’s work and if I have to crash every week to do it, too, I will. And if being present on social media is what God is calling me to now, then that is what I do. I will be joyful in obedience, even if the body is nauseated and anxious and wasted by posting. Paul had this to say:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.                                         -2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Now, I don’t think I’m in any danger of being “exalted above measure,” but I might be tempted to pray at least three times that God would take this thorn. But what would I be without it? So maybe, instead, I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Maybe, instead, I will pray that I would see His grace is sufficient for me. That His strength would be perfected in me. That I would be weak, so He would make me strong.

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