Strong


In my friend’s church office, I sat. Tears were streaming down my face, as she quietly listened to my story. I told her things about my life I had never admitted out loud, and as I did, she watched my face. When I was finished, she was quiet for a moment, and then she said:

“You are tired of being the strong one.”

Though for so long I felt like the lesser and the weaker, my friend named me in that moment. For friends, for my family, I had worked so hard to be “the strong one” –the one no one had to take care of, the one who took care of everybody else. I was trying to be Superwoman, but I had come to the end of my reserves. No longer could I be strong for everyone else, because I couldn’t even be strong for myself. I was wrung out. Broken. Not just from circumstances I found myself in at that moment, but from already being worn down from years of trying to do it on my own (or for others).

A couple weeks after that conversation, I found myself in the front seat of another friend’s car. We had been running errands together and somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself in tears once again. I was an overflowing well of exhaustion and pain.

“You don’t always have to be the strong one, you know?”

Its frightening when people see you as you are. Another friend was exposing the same truth of who I had tried so hard to become. I looked my friend in the eye, and answered her with a nod. I thought for a moment, and then said:

“I don’t know how to be any other way.”

A few years ago, on Grey’s Anatomy, Abigail Breslin played a little girl with a similar (yet more severe) issue.  She was a foster kid who kept getting shuffled around from home to home. At some point, her character discovered that when she was physically hurt, she didn’t feel pain.  She had a very serious nerve condition, yet thought she didn’t experience pain because she was a real live superhero with the responsibility to stand up for all the kids being bullied at school. Being shuffled around so much, she began to believe that she wasn’t very important to people, but that she could find her worth in being strong for others.

In a touching scene, one of the doctors, Alex, has to explain to this girl that it isn’t her inability to feel pain that made her a superhero–that made her special–but rather her concern for others who are in trouble.

Have you ever felt like you had to be Superwoman?

Maybe we get the message from society or from our circumstances, but it is not uncommon to hear women talking about the pressure they feel to be a Superwoman, Supermom or Superwife–as if its required for us to be Superhuman. (Maybe we think we have to become more than who we are, in order to be loved?)

For me, believing I had to be the strong one began with my circumstances as a kid. I had a sibling that was in the hospital a lot, and I didn’t want to add more to everything my parents were trying so hard to do to take care of us. But when the crisis passed, I didn’t know how or if it was OK to ask for help. I lived thinking I had to be superwoman, until I found myself in my twenties, in a heap of tears, and thankfully, in the presence of friends.

As I shared Monday, we as women are strong, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be strong all the time. Since that day in my friend’s car, I have been learning to ask for help. I have been learning that there are times to let others be strong for me. And I have been learning that people don’t need a superhero in their life, they need a friend for the journey.

Advertisements

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31: 25-26

The day that felt like it would never come, has finally arrived–the day after election day. No more awful commercials abouthow bad every candidate is (except the ones “approving this message”). No more awkward conversations with people you love, who happen to have very different political opinions than you. No more debates. No more debate remixes (sadly).

It’s done.

And yet, perhaps you are like me and have felt, at least a few times during this past year, powerless to help change our country for the better. Our country is facing many challenges right now, and perhaps, even if your candidate won last night, you have your doubts about how much they can accomplish, working in a broken system. It can be easy to find ourselves under a dark cloud in all of this, but when we do, we are forgetting something important about strength and power.

Over the past year, candidates–presidential, congressional, etc.–have campaigned for us to give them authority and power in our government. Today, because of our votes, some are looking forward to taking on that responsibility. But, they aren’t the only ones responsible.

The thing we often forget about strength and power is that we have them.

Though we may not hold a public office or have a known position of authority in our community, we still have both the ability and the opportunity to bring about change around us. Yes, only one person can be the president of the United States, but there are things we can change in our town and community, that the President can’t.  There are needs that we see, that he won’t be able to get to. There are things that we have the power to change, if we just begin to look outside of our own homes and we begin to partner with one another in community.

One of the things that bothered me the most this past election year, was that there were very few women in the race and that there are few women in Congress in general. But then I realized, though we may not have political equality yet, we do still have great strengths and abilities to bring about change.  As relational beings, we as women are uniquely wired to bring our neighbors together, to network within and outside our towns to bring hope and change to our communities.

Famous author and poet, Alice Walker has said “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” We as women have so often made this mistake, yet the world and our country needs us now, more than ever, to use the strengths God has given us. If we look back in History, we will find that the strongest people who have affected change, have not always been the people in positions of power.  People like Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, have shown us that we don’t need titles to help bring new life to our world.

So, as we all heave a communal sigh of relief that election season is over, I want to ask:

In your community, where to do you want to see change? 

And how may you be a part of the solution?

There is a lie that has transcended cultures, one that has existed almost since the beginning of time. It is a lie that feels like a reality when things get hard, or when we are told we can’t do it so we shouldn’t even try. It is a lie that comes with slogans like “women are the weaker sex” or you don’t want to do anything “like a girl.” Its a lie that some believe only men tell us, yet it falls just as powerfully from our own lips to each other, and is most paralyzing when our own brains whisper it to our hearts. The lie:

We are not strong. We who are women, are weak.

A chilling piece of fiction, it casts an effective shadow over us in our most insecure moments. It keeps us silent, when we know we need to speak. It keeps us still when we know action is needed. It keeps us sidelined when we belong in the game. But, these moments are not the majority. More often are the times when we completely forget how true the lie seemed a few minutes ago, when strength is our natural reaction, and this fiction is rendered powerless.

Like the time you sat alone in the cafeteria day after day, with no friends to sit with you, yet you held your head high anyway. The time you told him no, even though you knew it meant he wouldn’t call again. The time, after graduation, when you took a different path than all your friends. When you began to wonder why you decided to live so far away from home because you have never felt this lonely, yet you stuck it out. Or the time you felt like someone took everything out of you–either they stole your heart or your dream–and you still found a way to get out of bed in the morning.

The time you became a mom; being up all night with a baby that wouldn’t be soothed, only to get up the next morning for a long day at work. The time you worked so hard in a job you hated, to help someone else’s dream come true. The time you stood by your friend, when her husband left. The time you held things together when sickness struck your family in a way you never thought it would. The time you found a lump, and all of a sudden, you were the sick one.

The list of examples could go on and on, proving that:

Female, You are strong!

Your Creator made you strong. Whatever is making you feel otherwise, fight it by remembering your track record. Remember the times you have been strong, for yourself or for others, and know you will get through it. May you speak when you need to speak, act where you need to act, and know that you belong in the game.