I read a few years ago the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.
“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”
“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.
Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.
On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”
The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
We don’t often view our weaknesses in the same way, but we should. I am reminded of the time that Paul prayed fervently for God to remove some affliction unknown to us, what he called a “thorn in the flesh.” Refusing to remove it, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).
That seems to make no sense, and yet we see throughout the Bible how God is able to work despite the weaknesses of men and women, showing forth his power — David with his small stature against Goliath the giant, Gideon a man of no significant background leading a greatly outnumbered band of men, Jesus taking on humanity in the form of a helpless baby. In fact, the greatest demonstrations of God’s power have come when men and women have felt the weakest. Remember that the next time you feel inadequate.
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9b-10)
Alan Smith [email protected]