The measure of strength as a virtue of character is not how much pressure one can exert against others but how much stress one can absorb without breaking apart. The strong person is not impervious to pain but persevering in purpose.
Ray Anderson, Soulprints
I have learned about strength over recent months. I have learned what it looks like, how much it hurts and where to find more of it.
Yes, I have learned about strength.
On more than one occasion, I thought I would break apart. Others around me were breaking apart. We have absorbed much stress. And yet we stand.
Yes, still we stand. Not impervious to pain. Battered rather. Bruised and bloodied. More questions than answers at this point perhaps. Weakened in body, sometimes also more fragile in faith than we began. For strength does not mean might. Not in this kingdom. Here, strength is measured in capacity for vulnerability, a pouring out of self which paradoxically posits that self more definitively. Here, our weakness is strength because of One who made it so.
And thus it is that even as outwardly we waste away yet inwardly we are renewed every day. Our strength becomes greater. And, before the King who trumps every pretender to the throne, our claim stronger now. A cry of faith. A demand that he look and see. That he act on behalf of the righteous. For even the land now cries out that the sceptre over it be removed.
They tell me that we don’t know what he will do. That faith means trusting him to do good, not necessarily believing him for a specific outcome.
I know what they mean. It’s wise advice. I’d say the same to a younger believer. The cost of disappointment with God is high. It has shipwrecked more than a few.
But perhaps I am big enough and ugly enough to take the risk. The risk of wrestling him for a specific outcome. For the thing about this newly-learned strength is that, though I am not impervious to pain, I have become persevering in purpose.
Or maybe just plain stubborn.
And maybe he will not do this thing. Surely if he doesn’t, he will still be God. But what if he does? What if we wrestle and win? What if, despite hip dislocations designed to test how badly we want the blessing, we dare to say we will not let him go until he answers our request? What if we talk him into changing his mind, barter him down slowly from fifty to ten, until the terms on which he will act are now completely different than they were?
Yes, in a year that nearly caused me to break apart, this is what I have learned of strength. For, instead of breaking apart, I have learned with eyes remaining fixed on him to bear the pain in the strength of the One who carried it all. And, with him helping me, I will persevere until I see the blessing for which I now wrestle.