I used to ask my friends to punch my dad's forearm. They'd look at me strange, and so did my dad. But I insisted.
His forearm has always been as hard as a rock, probably from almost fifty years of folding chipboard and carrying heavy grill (as well as carrying many other heavy, valuable and tedious things).
I could've argued with confidence those days that my dad was the strongest person alive. I'd still argue it today, but my reasons for believing so have slightly changed. I haven't punched him lately. No matter. His character is a perfect display of what it truly means to have strength.
A friend posed this question a few days ago.
How would you define strength?
I couldn't answer her immediately, but the question has swirled around in my head because it's an important thing to ponder. It got me to thinking about my dad and my Heavenly Father and how the latter has used the first to teach me about being strong.
So here goes.
Strength is having the tenacity to stick with something important when you likely feel it's not working out. It might be praying for a lost loved one or reminding your children one thousand times to put their folded clothes up. Like the men who carried their paralyzed friend through a crowd and then climbed (with him and his mat in tow) onto a roof to get him to Jesus, strength means staying faithful. It doesn't give up.
Contrarily, Strength is surrender. It's stepping back to allow your grown son make his own decisions, knowing that his well-being depends more on his needing you less and needing God more. Strength apologizes when necessary and doesn't hold a grudge.
Strength must be ready. It has a spontaneous quality to it. (There's not always time for a warm up.) Strength doesn't pop off or express road rage. When someone is discouraged, strength is prepared. It has a ready reason for the hope it has when talking with a friend who's worried about her friendless son or her rebellious daughter.
Likewise, strength is loud when another is in need of defense. Strength invites the pariah to dinner. It speaks up when a conversation is turning unkind. Strength is quiet when it knows words aren't necessary or edifying. It doesn't babble or gossip. Strength is both bridled and unbridled; unselfish and kind.
Someone who's strong isn't easily swayed by trends, manipulation or impulses. Their yeses are yes and their no's are no. They refrain from doing what they shouldn't and are faithful to do what they should. Strength isn't afraid to graciously disagree with the number one bestseller self-help book, she doesn't change her mind on what her daughter is allowed to wear just because her daughter said all her friends' moms don't care, and she doesn't go to Target just because she's feeling bored or down in the dumps. (Or she really could need have needed to go discover that cute mini cactus in the dollar aisle.)
Strength is leading, but it's more serving and following. It's not so much, making the rules, as it is becoming familiar with (and longing for) God's plan above your own.
Strength isn't meant to be stored up but rather
- or borrowed
- And then renewed again
Strength is most beautifully displayed when it's lent to those suffering severe circumstances (when we cry with one who's broken, help someone recover a loss, or find their way.) Strength is knowing where our re-filling comes from when we're on empty. Strength knows its source and how to be a resource.
Consistent, "Can I give a witness" (kind of strength) is unattainable in and of ourselves. Thank goodness for that ever-present help we find in God, our strength.