During a recent discussion with family members, my four-year-old nephew heard me say that I was a "strong woman."
He perked up. "Really? Can you pick up furniture and stuff?"
It just so happened that I had lately done a lot of heavy lifting in preparation for carpet cleaning, so I confirmed that, yes, I could lift big things all by myself sometimes.
The following morning he greeted me with "Good morning, strong woman." I seemed to have gained an inch or two of awe with the little guy. Strength and toughness are big things to a kid who names his teddy bear "Concrete," you see.
Of course, my proclamation that I was a strong woman didn't have anything to do with actual bodily muscles (sorry, Andrew), but spoke of emotional toughness. I carry around with me a certainty that weaker souls could not have survived the life I live, mostly because I have to face everything alone, and on the salary of a non-profit worker.
I'm sure it's true that my iron-willed constitution has helped me out, time and again.
Also inherent in me is more than a pinch of stubbornness.
And don't forget the independent streak eight miles wide!
As I get older (and older...) I find that these attributes serve me well. Thus, I'm blessed to have them, and shouldn't view them as crutches that just barely keep me alive.
Here's a tangle to unravel, though: how in the world can God expect a person like this to submit to Him? (And, hey: I know I'm not alone in my strength--wink, wink!) Can these qualities, these dubious blessings, be used as tools to serve HIM well?
I'm thinking yes.
Job had more than a little bit of that nitty-gritty toughness in him, didn't he? Job 13:15 says, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (NIV). He came through in a big way.
Ask missionaries if they have any experience with having to be stubborn, soldiering on when no progress is visible to the mortal eye.
Witness the mighty survival-against-all-odds pulled off by the tiniest of preemies.
We truly do need the blessing of being a "stubborn old cuss" to persevere, and God ladles it out to us right at the time we need it.
But what about the blows that stagger us, when all that emotional muscle is spent and we're stripped to the bone?
That's when our faith moves beyond toughness and becomes a "cling thing." We, also, need to say to God, "Though You slay me, yet will I hope in You. I'm at the end of my rope, I can't go on, I can't fix it anymore. You take over."
And then hold on!
Cling tighter to Him than socks do to a sweater in a dryer without fabric softener.
Grip Him more than plastic wrap hangs on to the edge of a casserole dish in the microwave.
Be tougher than the leather in a saddle.
Be like Peter, in the event related in John 6:66-69 (NIV).
At one point in Jesus' ministry, many disciples were turning back, and Jesus asked the Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?"
Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
When the thought enters your head to abandon your faith, think to yourself, "But to whom would I go?"
Then toughen up.
And remember that sometimes it's a cling thing.
December 5, 2004