Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published May 3, 2000. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
My favorite novel of all time is “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. The 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon prompted me to pull my dog-eared copy from the shelf this weekend. As I reread the heart-wrenching story of a little boy whose faith in God outweighed the incredible obstacles in his life, I was reminded of a biblical passages that says, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” Seems like a paradox, doesn’t it?
Owen was small for his age and had a voice with unusual characteristics. Unloved by his parents and bullied by his peers, this tiny Christ figure believed he was on a mission from God and that his size and voice would be used to accomplish God’s purpose. If you’ve seen the movie, “Simon Burch,” you’re familiar with a storyline that parallels the book but falls far short of Irving’s masterpiece, in which Owen becomes a hero in the Vietnam conflict. I won’t spoil the triumphant ending, because I hope you’ll read the book.
Owen became a powerful role model for me by illustrating a different way to look at our weaknesses.
It’s easy to feel good about our strengths and to take pride in our accomplishments, but the longer I live, the more convinced I am that our weaknesses are the tools God can best use to hone our character. I also believe our greatest weaknesses can often be our greatest strengths. Finding that point of balance is the key. Learning how to use the weaknesses as building blocks has never been easy for me.
Wallowing in self-pity over a weakness won’t help. Trust me, I’ve tried that approach many times. As one comedian said, “Smile, and the world smiles with you; cry and you get your face wet.”
Whining and complaining because you think you have worse weaknesses than someone else is a waste of time, too. Owen makes me believe our weaknesses were carefully assigned to us and are to be used to balance our strengths and to motivate us to improve.
When confronted by one of his weaknesses, Owen looked at it with gratitude and considered himself privileged to be endowed with this gift for his “mission.” He always looked up for his answers, and he never stopped believing in a gracious God who uses all kinds of people to get His work done on Earth.
Irving began his novel with the line, “I love Owen Meany, because he taught me to believe in God.” I would end this column with the line, I love Owen Meany, because he inspires me to use my weaknesses as springboards for growth and greater challenges.