What does it mean to be strong?

I wanted to write a “happy” post today because I’m not as disgusted with life as some of my earlier posts might lead one to believe. Yes, I get disgusted with bad behavior, with incomprehensible bureaucratic nonsense, and even (or especially) with the inertia of life. Those things are annoying, at best. But there are also delightful parts of life. Like happy, laughing children who are proud to tell me of their accomplishments in swimming lessons and soccer games, in school and at church. Here’s one that makes me positively swoon with thankfulness – my anger-prone kid decided not to have  a melt-down even though he was upset. It may seem small, but we’ve been praying for and working on that very thing for years. And he’s getting there. He will never be cool-headed. I’m not either – much as some may wish I could be. But both of us need to develop the habit of self-control. And he is. By the grace of God, so am I. Swoon. Here’s another one, it’s a baby step, but a step: it is delightful to see my youngest working hard and wanting to do well at school. Right now, I’m less concerned with her grades than with her desire to learn. Grades will matter more later – though still not as much as learning will – but for now, I’m delighted that she wants to step into the arena. That’s a new thing too. It means she’s asking for people to help her, not to do things for her. It means I have more work to do to find resources to help where she can’t help herself. And that’s a great thing.

 

So, I have to be strong, and I’ve always thought of myself as a strong-willed person – a loud one at that. My husband has been accused of not being up to my weight, so to speak. He is. He’s just quieter and more private about it. Of course, he’s only actually quiet and private compared to me, so guess what that means about our sweet little children? They are willful, smart, loud, passionate, funny, verbal, competitive, loving, silly, and did I mention loud and willful? Blank slates? Never. They had big personalities from birth. I kinda like that. I like it about myself, for all it has caused a lot of heartache over the years. “Strong” is sometimes about not being breakable. It’s about not giving in. It’s about not submitting. It makes childhood hard. Childhood is a time in life when you are expected to do what you are told. When your opinions are not often sought and are less often respected. And there’s a reason for that: children lack sufficient wisdom and experience which is needed in making good decisions. And lots of children don’t have all that many opinions. They are self-focused because their frame of reference is small. But we have kids who had to be convinced that, though they have opinions and want to make decisions, it’s simply not their turn in life to do so. They’ll get a turn, never fear, but now they need to learn by obeying , not by choosing. This has been a huge battle. And as parents, we have been far from perfectly consistent in our execution. But we win because we must; because loving our kids well means tempering the strength they have so that they may use it well in the future. Without breaking them. I asked my mom when she broke my will. She looked at me like I was speaking French…I often do, but I wasn’t then. “We never broke your will. You obeyed. But I’m not sure I could have removed your will even if I’d wanted to.” It has been pointed out to me that my willfulness, and that of my children, is not universally well-liked. My tendency is to apologize for that, because I want to be loved just like everyone else does. But. This is who God made us. I don’t think that means we are never to grow and change, or that we are not to submit to authority or control our emotions. It just means that the redeemed version of our personalities, to say nothing of the sinful versions we’re stuck with for now, will always include a metaphorical show of force. I hate that some people don’t like us because of it, but I will not apologize for something that is not an evil I have done to you. Never fear, there are still plenty of things I will still have to confess and apologize about.

 

And part of what makes us strong? The family and friends who encourage us when we are weak. Those who remind us that we are loved and forgiven, not only by a holy God, but by our loved ones as well. And our ability to forgive also reminds us that we have a strength outside ourselves. My internal competitive, human strength tells me to strike back when I am hurt. I could do that. I’m pretty good at winning verbal battles. But those are empty victories and fruitless showings of might because relationships are forever harmed. Sometimes real courage comes in deciding to forgive when forgiveness has not been sought. Sometimes, it comes in seeking to ease pain, instead of returning it measure for measure. So. I’m praying for those who hate me. Or even just don’t like something about me. They may never like me any better, but I can hope that they find peace. Because I have, and it never came from people, anyway. “Now may the Lord of Peace Himself grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

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