How many times have I heard the phrase “You’re so strong” as I’ve been forced to walk a path in life I would have never chosen. Too many to count. People mean well. They mean to give me courage. But all the while it adds another brick of expectation to the load I’m carrying. (And if we are honest as a society, the saying excuses us from lifting one another’s burdens as we are supposed to. We say to ourselves, “They seem to be strong enough to carry their own stuff, I don’t need to help.”)
The need to be strong drives us as humans. I mean, who wants to be seen as weak, right? We hold it together, and tack on a smile.
Probably a month after my husband died, yet another person said something like, “just stay strong”, and I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t want to be strong.” Being strong in the biggest battle of my life is like asking a marathon runner to curl 20 lb weights while he runs. It’s too much.
I wanted to be weak. I wanted people to give me permission to be weak. I wanted to give myself permission to be weak. And not feel bad about it. Inner expectation is a killer. Outer expectation is a killer. It all adds weight to an already tortuous burden.
I think society portrays strength as not being able to be defeated or taken down. But that’s silly. We all get taken down at some point in life. No one is indestructible. And tragedy of any kind is a force as powerful as a tsunami. We all cave under its power. Some just cover it up better than others.
What if strength is letting yourself be weak at the right moments. Succumbing to it. Letting it crash into you and envelope you. And relax the muscles that are trying desperately to resist it.
Maybe strength is allowing it. Ceasing the fight and letting it work something unique and profound.
And then allowing healing.
And then rising again.
“For though the righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16) Oh…so you mean the good guys fall, too? Oh, yeah, that’s right.
Just because I am weak, doesn’t mean I have to stay that way. It just means I need to be….right now.
Imagine someone having a broken foot but being determined to “be strong” and continue to carry the load they normally did? No, when someone suffers a physical injury, we EXPECT them to take it easy and recover. To be weak.
In fact, proper healing requires it. Isn’t it the same for trauma and grief? To “stay strong” is actually living in denial of the storm inside you. And storms break. And that’s okay. Rest in your brokenness so healing can come.
Maybe it’s okay to not be okay all the time. Maybe it’s okay to be weak. Which simply means all the pressure to do it all on our own, perfectly, falls to the floor and we can crumple in blessed submission to the release of requirements.
If you hold your arm out in front of you, it’s easy. Doing it for an hour? Ummm…no thanks. The burn and the ache will be screaming at you for the sweet release of giving up. Falling never felt so good. The sweet surrender to the failure – the collapse – will bring relief. And sometimes, in the darkest moments of life, we need that relief – the relief of not having to hold it all together.
As we trudge our way through a tragedy in life, don’t carry the false notion of being strong. I’ll gladly say I’m weak.
Because it means I’m human. It means I’ve loved fully. And lost fully.
Because I’m weak, I’ve tasted what it is to be carried – that humbling, soul-crying-from-thankfulness-as-others-lifted-me-up, heart-deepening- kind of carried.
Because I’m weak, I understand its power. I understand its necessity.
Because I’m weak, I appreciate its beauty and what it births.
Because I’m weak, I appreciate the victory of standing again.
Because I’ve tasted the darkness, the light holds new depths.
Because I’ve drowned, my simple breath holds more awe.
Because I’ve been carried, I understand compassion and mercy.
Because not being superwoman gives room for God to defend those He swore to defend.
Because being weak, ultimately, gives room to heal.
Because I’m weak, I’ve realized it is actually part of being strong.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10