Someone told me the other day, “You’re so strong.” I kind of shrugged my shoulders…not meaning to be dismissive of what she thought, but more thinking, I’m not really strong. I just did what I had to do. I mean, I think I normally associate strength with a capacity you foster…something you prepare to be. But really, strength often comes by accident…well, maybe not a real accident, but at least unintentionally. Let me explain. I know lots of people who have great strength and resilience, and most of them have proven that by the way they have weathered a storm. It’s the cancer survivors, those who have persevered through and with disabilities, survivors of violence, parents who’ve had to bury a child, widows and widowers, those who have weathered the unthinkable, faced adversity, fought and come out alive (albeit scarred). They have strength—true, undeniable strength. And yet they didn’t ask for those situations. They didn’t rally for cancer. They didn’t invite abuse. Instead awful things happened to them and, somehow, they lived to tell about it.
I’m sure, having borne my own “stuff” that those folks (we folks) have thought, “I don’t think I can take much more.” Or “I don’t have any strength left in me.” Or “I can’t do any more.” We’ve hated our circumstances, wished it wouldn’t have happened to us, pleaded “uncle” with hopes that some power (holy or otherwise) would free us from our pain, trials, or suffering. And all along, we’ve known that that answer might come a long way down the road, or maybe never in the ways we ask or hope, so we’ve continued on one way or the other. We face each day with whatever strength we can muster and we’ve made it through.
And the result is strength, perseverance, and determination. Not necessarily because we wanted to be strong, but often because there was no other choice.
And looking inward, I don’t see great strength in myself. I just see someone who did what was necessary, it’s not award worthy. But, looking outward, I see tremendous strength. I see capacities far greater than my own to overcome those things that are much worse than what I have confronted in my own journey. And to those folks, you folks, I would say you have tremendous strength, power, resilience, determination and perseverance. I stand with great admiration for the example you have set and the ways you have refused to let the trials and darkness overtake your power, light, and joy.