It was just one of those mornings for my 4-year-old.
Even though he usually loves school, he sat in the car in tears, refusing to enter the building. I crawled to the the backseat, already hot and stuffy with California heat. We talked about why he was feeling sad and how I could help. About every five minutes he would gather himself, only to burst back into tears a moment later.
We went on like this for more than 20 minutes. Opening the door after he agreed to get some fresh air, he looked at me with eyes red and swollen and said something I will never forget: “Momma, I can’t go in there now. I have to fix myself first.”
We try to be accepting of tears and messiness in our family, so this comment surprised me. It seems that despite efforts to allow our kids to express the full spectrum of human emotion, his little heart innately knew the world isn’t friendly to weakness. He wanted to hide until he looked like he had it together for his teachers and classmates.
He is 4. I am 34. But as he spoke those words, I knew exactly what he meant, because all too often I live out of the same fear.
He Knows Your Weakness
Fortunately, I have a God who understands this fear and helps me handle it.
While studying the book of Hebrews, I’ve been lingering on the office of high priest. The high priest was the one who, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, would make his way into the Holy of Holies to atone for sins. He was to mediate between God and man, attempting to fill the divide through sacrifices:
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. (Heb. 5:1–2)
As Israel’s high priests tapped into their own weaknesses, they could access compassion and empathy for struggling constituents.
What the high priests were meant to typify, Christ perfectly personified.
He Wears Your Weakness
The second person of the Trinity has no weaknesses, but in his incarnation he took on a body that was subject to sun exposure, fever, and exhaustion. He let himself, in the words of Hebrew 5:2, be beset with human weakness. The word translated “beset” (perikeimai) means to be surrounded by, encompassed by, clothed with.
Christ clothed himself with weakness. He wore our feebleness as his garment. On the cross, he became both high priest and sacrificial lamb, slain once for all time, to restore us to the Father. And he still remains our great high priest today, always living to make intercession for us.
As his followers, we too are called to boldly wear our weakness before a world (and all too often a church) that demands we have it all together. Thankfully, our sympathetic Savior promises to be with us in our weakness, and to shower us with mercy and grace:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)
He Clothes You with Strength
Jesus doesn’t just provide mercy and grace for our weakness; as we acknowledge our need, he provides a new outfit of dignity and strength.
I used to feel mocked by the Proverbs 31 woman, “clothed with strength and dignity.” Now I realize she wore strength and dignity because she first wore her weakness. Those were borrowed robes she received in the presence of another.
As much as I love him, my son was wrong. With such a great high priest available to us, we don’t have to wear strength in the world, always showing our best selves and hiding our brokenness. In fact, for the Christian, the opposite is true. We’re called to bring our rags to the throne room and receive robes of borrowed strength.
- Only Messy People Allowed: Toward a Culture of Grace (Sam Allberry)