My wife Kelly is a special education administrator in Cahokia, Illinois. Her school recently held an event to create a vision for the school’s future. She told me the meeting’s keynote speaker told this story, although it was not original with him. I share it today because it is engaging and makes an incredible point.
When their son was born with no right arm the new parents were terribly upset. However, from the start they decided to encourage the boy to not allow his disability to define him. Their positive encouragement paid off. When the boy was nine, he asked to join a karate club and their son soon became a regular at the local dojo.
One day the head of the karate studio informed his students about an upcoming tournament. The nine-year-old student immediately asked if he could participate. His instructor agreed, but only on one condition, he had to listen and trust his teacher completely.
He was so excited about the tournament he eagerly agreed to his instructor’s requirement. The child was determined to learn all he could. However, his teacher had him focus on a single move. The boy carefully practiced it repeatedly until he felt he could do it in his sleep.
As he watched other students working on a wide range of moves, he became discouraged, because he had only mastered a single move. However, when he asked his instructor to teach him other karate moves, the teacher refused. He urged the boy to continue practicing the move he knew.
The day of the tournament finally arrived and the boy was surprised when he easily won his first match. He was shocked when he won match after match, eventually winning the entire tournament.
After the tournament he asked the master how a boy with only one arm and one move could win a karate tournament. The teacher smiled and explained there was only one defense against the move he had learned, and that involved grabbing an attacker by the right arm.
Ironically, the child’s weakness was his advantage. This happens more often than you might think. The Apostle Paul described it this way. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the… troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NLT)
In a strange way it makes sense. Those who have lost a spouse often best understand how to comfort a grieving friend. Someone who has been unemployed can usually encourage a friend who has lost a job. Like the child with only one arm, God frequently uses our weaknesses in ways we cannot imagine. It is ironic that God often takes our greatest weakness and uses it to help others and honor himself.