Dealing With Our Incompletions – Our Weaknesses

Romans 8:26: "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weaknesses."

No matter what period of life we are in, there are many things that are incomplete such as:
goals, dreams, relationships – life is filled with unfinished business.
No matter how many academic degrees we may have, our knowledge is incomplete.

One little boy went to his pastor and asked, "What do you know about God?"
The pastor and stammered and said, "I know a little."

The boy then said: "Well, I will speak to the of the pastor.
Maybe he knows all about God
."

How do we deal with our "incompletions"?
How do we deal with other people's incompletions?

We can exploit incompletion.

We can focus so strongly on someone else's weaknesses that we see nothing else.
That becomes the central interest, and we become oblivious to everything else in their life.
We see this frequently in the world around us – exploitation.

In an athletic contest one team tries to uncover the weaknesses of the other
in order to have the advantage and exploit that weakness.
In the business world, exploitation and ruthless competition are soul mates.
We also see it in personal relationships whereby one exploits another's weakness to appear stronger.
This is insidious!
Sometimes this is not a conscious awareness, but it is all around us.

We need our critics in this world, but if we go through life simply exploiting weaknesses in others,
we become a destructive force.
We can have our critical faculties sharpened and our sense of appreciation dulled very easily.
We can focus on anyone's inadequacies until that is all we see.

When was the last time that you said to someone close to you: "I appreciate you.
I appreciate that quality in you.
That is a very fine quality, and I want you to know that I appreciate it
."

A little boy went to a birthday party, and when he came home his mother asked,
"Did you think Mrs. Johnson for inviting you to the party?"
He answered, "I was standing in line when the little boy in front of me thanked her,
and she said, 'Don't mention it,' so I didn't mention it
."

Sometimes we don't mention the things that come to our minds, and one of the regrets
of my life is that I have been in touch with great and wonderful people,
and I didn't mention my appreciation to them.
They lived and died, and I never told them how much they were appreciated by me.

So we must reach the place where we can understand that most people live about the best they can
under their own personal circumstances.

Carl Faber, a psychologist from the University of California of Los Angeles, said that
he had come to one conclusion in dealing with people:
"No matter how disoriented they may become, they are doing the best they can
under the total circumstances of their lives at that time.
Thus, every person is to be treated respectfully in that light
."
He was saying that we must acknowledge that other lives have a depth of ministry.

We are tempted to judge others too quickly.
People who judge quickly, and who readily assumes the worst of others
do a disservice to themselves as well as to others.
There is such an incomplete understandings between people and incomplete communication.

Some years ago I heard the story of a man to call long-distance for a motel reservations.
The motel manager said, "Do you want a tub or a shower?"

The man asked, "What's the difference?"

The manager patiently replied, "In a tub you sit down."

They were talking about two different things, but in our relationships there are always ambiguity
– distance and closeness – affirmation and doubt.
So, how do we deal with these?

Should we say, "Leave all your faults at the front door when you come in."
Or do we simulate into the total relationship faults and weaknesses of the other person.

It's painful to live with someone because the pain comes from the fact that we assimilate
some of that person's inadequacies, and he or she simulate some of ours.
It can always be painful to live by yourself.
We live with our imperfections.

One preacher asked, "Does anyone here claimed to be perfect?"
When there was no response he said, "Well, has anyone ever known someone who was perfect?"

And a little dried-up man stood and said, "I didn't know him, but I have heard of him."
The pastor asked who it was, and the man replied, "My wife's first husband."

You see the real qualities of love and its meaning comes not when everything is complete
or one everything is perfect, but it comes when we can love that which is unlovable
and accept that which is unacceptable.
And that is what the Scripture says, "Love bears all things."
Love never exploits weaknesses, and the way to deal with people's incompleteness is not to exploit them.

We deal with our incompletions by exposing them, and accepting the pain of being known.

We don't like people to know how much we lack at times.
We open ourselves and risk scorn, knowing we don't want to be scorned and rejected.
Exposure for exposure's sake alone is not enough.

Someone wrote:
"To the counselor's lair
When a man in despair,
With his… psyche laid bare,
And he perished from overexposure."

And we can perish from overexposure.
When the psyche is laid open, wounded and bleeding with no tender hands to reach in and touch it,
no warmth of feeling, then we can perish.

When we expose our lives, it is not in an effort to throw our garbage at somebody.
It is a signal that we need somebody to look into us, and look through us.
We need to use this phrase in derision,
"I can see right through you."
We do need to be transparent.

So for us to know ourselves, we must have these moments of exposure;
otherwise, we go into hiding, or become defensive.
If I don't expose my deception, how will I hunger for honesty?
If I don't expose my arrogance, I will never make a prayer for humility.
If I do not expose the resentment and hate that are inside my soul and draining my energy,
I will never be able to pray for love to destroy the emotion that is destroying me.

It is in exposure, that we meet our needs.
Yet most of us are afraid of this kind of exposure because we are afraid that it will evoke
a negative response – and we like to be positive.

Some years ago I read of the husband and said to his wife:
"I am tired of coming home and hearing you tell about all the bad things
that happened during the day – all the troubles, and all the problems.
The next time when I come home just tell me the positive things
."

When he came home the next day he asked his wife have the day had gone.
She replied: "It went great. Five of our six children didn't break their arms."

Well, I have a feeling that for the health of our souls the negative has to be expressed
in order to have the positive come through.
And then in that atmosphere of trust – when the negative can be expressed – the dam breaks,
and all the beautiful qualities we didn't know were there begin to flow through.

And then comes that moment of truth when we move from the apparent to the transparent,
and we take our incompleteness and expose them because we desperately need to be seen through.

We deal with our incompleteness also by exposing them.

That may seem strange.
It would seem that we would always try to hide them, but the people who have done the most in life
have been out front by risking their strengths and their weaknesses.
The apostle Paul said, "I found out that sometimes my weaknesses becomes strength."

Many today don't remember Babe Ruth who was the home run king.
He struck out more than anyone else, but one thing we often forget was that
he usually struck out by swinging.
He knew his weakness was striking out, and he could have just stood there with his bat on his shoulder,
but he said, "I'll risk it."
And he produced.

I don't know anybody who produces in life who is afraid to take risk.
The Bible speaks about it, what it tells us about a man who buried his talent.
When asked to give a report on how he used his talent, he said to Jesus that he didn't want to risk it
so he just buried it in the ground.
But Jesus was saying, "No, you should have risked that talent instead of doing nothing."

And when we do risk that talent by God's grace that talent becomes two talents or three talents.
And suddenly, we have discovered our great potential as we live out our limitations.

I believe that one thing God wants most from us is the gift of our incompletions.
Some of the greatest writing was from people who had great limitations.

Think about Paul.
He was argumentative and authoritative, and rigid – but Paul wrote one
of the greatest pieces of literature on love in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Gestalt psychology is based on belief that we strive for completion, but we never arrive.
Our self-image is never complete, and if it were to be complete, it would be a deterrent to growth
because life is always striving.

I want to know to the best of my ability who I am today, but I have no ideal what I'm going to be tomorrow
because there are going to be other dimensions of experience.
Look forward to the years of head and keep striving for completion.
The person who has a predetermined self-image stops striving.

I read of a psychologist speaking about a woman who had a recurring dream.
She dreamed there was a dark hole in the ground out of which came a flower,
but the flower was plastic.

As she probed her life, she discovered that she was the kind of person who had a self-image of perfection.
She needed always to believe that she was perfect.
She came to understand that the darkness of the hole indicated depression and death,
and the artificial flower was a symbol of her artificial self.
She saw that artificial self had to be shattered and broken for vitality to return her life.

She was sad, she was plastic, and she was artificial.
Her self-image had been set, and it never been changed.
There was an intense need for striving.

Life is always offered to us as a duality: striving – fulfillment; love – suffering; joy – sadness.

Kahlil Gibran has said it in such a wonderful way:
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame will from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?…
Is not the cup that holds our wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
… Is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives
?"

God has given us the gift of incompletion so that we will keep striving.
And that is a great way to live.
The most manic moments that I know are when love has been poured out, has been expressed
in those moments of terrible incompletion.

In the film made of Helen Keller's life.
Helen had not only the handicap of blindness, but also had a terrible, sour disposition as well.
Then Anne Sullivan moved into her life.
Helen resisted her – rejected her.

Anne taught her to read and communicate and to believe there was some great potential in that child.
She wouldn't give up on her.

There were great moments when she actually wrestled with her, and actually, struggled with her.
Anne was trying to bring those inner strivings out, and Helen was resisting.

Then that miracle happened.
That moment when Helen discovered that her tormentor, her adversary, was really her redeemer.
There was a beautiful moment when Helen put Anne's fingers on her mouth and said, ";I love you."

That is the way of God with us.
He struggles with us.
He strives with us.
It appears at times only to torment us.
He will not let us go.
He created those inner strivings for our own fulfillment.

And when we really recognize this, we will say, "God, I love you."
It has been said, "Around our incompletions lies His completion."

I suppose this is the attraction Christ has for us.
We find in Him the most complete person, and we strive to fulfill our lives in His presence.
We keep striving because He is so complete, and we are so needy, and we need to reach out to Him.

These are the words of an old gospel hymn:

"Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus I come.
Into thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come.
Out of my sickness into thy health,
Out of my want, into thy wealth.
Out of my sin, into thyself,
Jesus, I come to thee."

We come to God with all our incompletions, knowing there is a Love that will never let us go.
That is the good news of the gospel.

Sermon was adapted by Dr. Harold L. White