I started this entry out as a quick-ish synopsis of my experience with weightlifting and how its lessons translated into so many other areas of my life. It really got me thinking, though, and that is a dangerous thing. This is when we find ourselves in “short story long” territory. My husband has always been patient in my story telling, but he will also encourage me to “make the point” when I stray off course. In the case of “the strong ones,” there was simply too much to keep it readable for one post but over the past couple of days I have realized this was the direction I have been headed all along.
A few years ago I asked a group of ten people who, at the time I felt knew me well, to describe me in one word. Eight of them said “strong.” That came about during a time when I was feeling everything but strong. Here’s an excerpt of something I wrote then:
I cried. Every time I saw that word, I felt like a fraud… and yes, we are strong, but we are also human and in the moments that I read that same word over and over again all I could think was how tired I was of being strong... We all have to go through some tough times, make hard decisions, and experience a little heartache in our lives. Those lessons are the ones that teach us the most about who we really are & can be. I don’t think that process has an end in sight for me, but I’m learning to respect it, enjoy it, and believe in the promises it brings. Recognizing when you’ve had enough is one (thing) I’m not so good at – you know, because I’m strong.
I’m chuckling at the girl who wrote that. True, she had had enough but there has been so much more since, it makes me curious… how do we continue on when life gets hard? Well, the answer is we find the strength. And that has me down a deep dark rabbit hole of wondering over the meanings and types of strength. What are some specific scenarios where I felt strong? The answers surprised me because they ranged from a high school weight room to a delivery room to a flooded basement to a NICU to the end of a year-long deployment (and then another) to a 345 lb deadlift to walking away from a toxic environment to helping my friend bury her dog to burying friends, marrying friends, moving… and moving… and moving… All of these examples made me realize that strength isn’t just as defined: “1. the quality or state of being physically strong. 2. the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.” There has to be more to it! So we have come to the ‘short story long’ version of “The Strong Ones…”
This year has been what I have termed my “snow globe year.” My whole world got turned upside down and then shaken vigorously. The beauty in that level of “falling apart” is that in the righting and settling of the world, everything changes. Nothing will ever look the same, feel the same, BE the same. Once you get right side up again, you have a choice to either keep looking at the world as what you lost in the change or you can walk in the knowledge that you are STRONG enough to withstand the ‘snow globing’ of your world and not only continue on, but find purpose in the changes, gratitude in the small moments, and faith of greater days to come. The strong ones put all the burdens of life on their backs and keep moving forward. One step at a time. Why? Because they know that their legs aren’t strong enough to carry them by accident. They know that their eyes were designed to focus on what’s ahead of them, not what they are passing through or have left behind. They know that they have and will see worse, but their desire to keep moving forward is stronger than the load they carry. STRENGTH does not come to anyone in any form easily or by accident. In this season of life my strength has been earned with the pain of disappointment, the sting of failure, the tears of betrayal, the fear of being left behind, and the risk of losing. The strong ones know all of those things well, but they also know that what lies on the other side of disappointment, failure, and betrayal is greater… as Maya Angelou said “the price is high, but the reward is great.” As I like to say, “Life is going to be hard… be strong anyway.” It’s worth it.