Natalie steps onto the court to the applause of thousands of onlookers. It is game 3 of the Blazers-Mavericks series in the 2003 NBA Playoffs, and Natalie has been chosen to sing the national anthem in front of thousands of fans. At thirteen, she is doing what most people don’t even have the skill to do, let alone the opportunity. This is her chance. The crowd inside the Rose Garden hushes as Natalie begins to sing:
Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the star’s light…
Natalie stumbles at the end of that last line and stops. She realizes that she has the words mixed up. For a moment, it seems as if all the air has been sucked out of the stadium. Natalie has failed…now what?
What would you do if that had happened to you?
What do you do when you encounter failure?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about dealing with a “thorn” in this flesh. It isn’t clear exactly what this thorn is; what we do know is that it causes him suffering and keeps him from “becoming conceited” (12:7). It highlights his weakness. Suffering, failure, embarrassment–these are all things that deflate our ego and make us feel really, really small. And that, I think, is where God wants us to be, because it is only then that we have enough room for Him and other people around us. Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
When we are humbled, we realize how much we need God. It is then that God’s power is most fully and gloriously manifested.
So, going back to Natalie, what did happen next? Watch this to find out:
Maurice Cheeks, coach of the Portland Trailblazers, walks up to Natalie and helps her finish the rest of the anthem. He stands by her in her weakness. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of how God stands by us in our suffering and failure?
As Christians, we know that things aren’t as they should be. We believe that failure and suffering are the result of living in a world broken by sin. We aren’t masochists though. Suffering itself is not good. Don’t embrace your failures; embrace the humility and the weakness that come with those failures. When we are humbled, we are made open to God and others, just as Natalie experienced an openness that would not have been possible had she nailed that anthem.
God’s grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in our weakness.