The definition of strength seems to often change when we face our own mortality squarely, eyeball-to-eyeball. Physical, mental and emotional prowess transform into another form of strength, something akin to humility.
To me, humility in this context resembles my father on the day he died, clinging to my hand for the first time in his life of over eighty years. Perhaps in stark contrast, this same quality also appeared in my little grandson just yesterday as he kissed me repeatedly with waffle-lips through the iron lattice of his driveway gate.
Aged wisdom and childlikeness: they’re linked, somehow. And yet most of our lives are lived somewhere in the middle where we try to be strong but neglect the primary necessity in strength-training: weakness.
Doesn’t humility mean we reject what seems right, proper, or accepted for what is right as seen through the eyes of the Christ who lives in us - so that we let go of preconceptions and expectations and embrace the moment?
I watched a grown man today, a man who used to run circles around many of his friends and colleagues, a man whose abundant energy and stamina kept him busy from very early morning until late at night. I watched him struggle to perform tasks that used to be simple. I watched him grow weary and yet stubbornly persist until he grew weak, pale and nauseus.
And yet, I know the truth. This man is growing stronger every day.
He is also in the process of discovering the unique humility known mostly to the aged and the young. He is freer than ever before to live beyond the surface – the rat-race, the to-do list, the self-imposed expectations. He is freer to connect his heart with others’ – right there where the Spirit is at work bearing fruit. He is freer to evangelize by example – in the spotlight created by his disease.
I wonder how he will be tomorrow…and the day after…as his earthly life wanes and humility does its strengthening work? Perhaps his old definition of identity will evolve from muscle-bound manly performance to…wisdom cloaked in childlikeness.
Then he’ll be truly strong.
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