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WPC Pulse – July 2013

Power that is Made Perfect in Weakness

By Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD

"It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon" - the famous, ironic opening to Garrison Keillor's acclaimed Lake Wobegon report every week on "A Prairie Home Companion." The line is funny because regular listeners know that it will be followed by a long and winding report of all of the interpersonal challenges experienced that week by the residents of the fictitious Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. They are a hilarious assortment of characters that never can seem to get along. They argue, criticize one another's spirituality, look down their noses at one another's children and even sabotage one another's gardens in pursuit of the annual vegetable contest prizes. Though Garrison tells us every week that it has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, the fact is that it's never really a quiet week there.

That's how I feel about my own life lately. I want to tell you that it has been a quiet week in the Galbreath household. But I'd be lying. I want to tell you that we never argue or complain or criticize or compete with those we love. But I'd be lying. I want to tell you that we are always kind, loving, generous and compassionate. But you would know that I was suffering from the Lake Wobegon effect, defined as "a natural human tendency to overestimate one's capabilities."

No, we aren't as capable as we wish we were here in my neck of the woods. We stumble along, desiring to follow God and yet forever falling short. It can get downright depressing...that is, until you read 2 Corinthians 12:9: "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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (NIV 2011).

I've felt nothing but weakness lately. I've stumbled in so many areas - parenting, work, marriage. And in other areas I've done what I knew was right, but still hurt others and alienated myself from them. And as I've traversed these events, I've been so tempted to tell myself, "Well, what does that patient expect anyway? That everyone will be 100 percent well 100 percent of the time? It's not my fault!" or "My friend ought to know that if her son makes choices like that there will be consequences. It's not my fault!" or "If teenagers would just do what they were supposed to do, things would go more smoothly. It's not my fault!" It's tempting, but even I know I'm lying when I tell myself those things. It is my fault when I fail, when I hurt others, when I don't live up to the grace and forgiveness that has been granted to me. It's my fault, and it's my weakness.

But to boast about my weaknesses?!? That flies in the face of everything I've ever been taught...

"Yes, Dad, I failed Calculus and I'm not going to get into medical school after all. Aren't you proud of me?"

"Yes, sir, I did forget to check those labs and our patient is now in the ICU. I bet you never had an intern like me before!"

"Yes, son, I completely forgot to attend your district championship. I know....I'm awesome."

"Yes, it's true - I am jealous of your time and want you to be home at least twice as much as you're at work, no matter how realistic it is. Most wives don't love their husbands this much, you know!"

Ludicrous examples, but that's how it feels to even think about boasting about my weaknesses. Paul has got to be kidding!

And yet, Paul tells me that those very weaknesses are God's opportunities to shine. God's grace provides sufficiency where it is in short supply. God's power makes perfect where weakness makes fallible. Christ's power rests on me when my own power fails.

Maybe weakness isn't such a bad thing after all. Maybe when I try to look strong I am blinding the world to God's power and grace. Maybe the real satisfaction for my perfectionism and drive to succeed lies in getting out of God's way and allowing Him to bring perfection in the face of my weaknesses. Maybe so...

While the news from Lake Wobegon comes from that place "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average,” the news from the Galbreath household comes from a place where all the women are weak, all the men are imperfect and all the children fail on a regular basis - and we're boasting about it!

Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD, MBA

About Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD, MBA

Autumn Dawn Eudaly Galbreath, MD, MBA is an internist in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her husband, David, and their three children. Though they met in medical school, David now owns a restaurant in the San Antonio area. Between the two of them, they have experienced multiple career transitions, and weathered the resultant stresses on their marriage and family. Autumn Dawn speaks to the issues of Christian marriage, being a working mother in the church, and being a woman in medicine with an engaging humor that brings perspective to these difficult issues. Autumn Dawn earned her MD from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, where she also completed her internal medicine residency. She earned her MBA from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.

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