Transforming a Weakness
By Dr. John Oswalt
Wesley Biblical Seminary President
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But– “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:3-6 NLT).
My father was 45 when I was born, and I may have broken the pattern, but at least up until this point, Oswalt men never showed emotion. That was my Dad. I know now that I was the apple of his eye, but I’ll tell you, he squelched that emotion more effectively than I could ever imagine. As far as I knew, I was an inconvenience to him. He was very effective at telling me what I did not do right. Now don’t misunderstand me, he was a good father. I’m so grateful to God for giving me a father with the integrity, the sense of responsibility, and all the good characteristics he had, but I grew up with a positive lust for affirmation.
I didn’t realize this for a long time. All I knew was that as a Christian seeking to live God’s life, I was plagued with envy. Somebody would get an honor, and I would be eaten up with envy. I didn’t deserve it, hadn’t earned it and wasn’t in the running. But I wanted it. And for many, many years, I beat myself with the assistance of my enemy whispering in my ear, “And you call yourself sanctified. You call yourself filled with the Holy Spirit and you go around with all that stuff.” And I would pray earnestly, “Lord, Lord, take away these feelings.”
The Lord began to help me, and what He said to me was, “John, I put you in that family. I put you in a situation where that lust for affirmation would indeed arise. Now, do you want me to destroy you, and make somebody else?” I said, “No, No, probably not.”
He began to help me understand that to be John Oswalt is to have that particular weakness. And for the first time in my life, I stopped saying, “If I would be entirely sanctified, I would quit being me”, and began to say, “If I were entirely sanctified, I would be me, but set free.” So, when someone would get an honor, and the feeling would begin to rise, instead of fighting and trying to beat it down, instead of trying to deny it, I began to say, “Here, Holy Spirit. This is ugly. Here, I don’t want this.” And for the first time in my life, I began to experience consistent victory.
He did not change my tendency. But He helped me to understand where it came from, and to accept that origin, and if today I have any degree of sensitivity to the need of other persons for affirmation, it’s because of that. The Lord didn’t take the weakness away, but I think He’s transformed me in it.