This won't be for everyone. I get that. But this simple story took shape in my heart one day, as I was trying to figure out what it meant to be strong. I hesitate sharing it, because it feels like it has more of a home in a journal, not on a blog. But here we are...
Strong. We all want to be strong...physically, mentally and spiritually. But I'm not naive. My human capacity for strength is quite finite. I lift weights, sure, but I'm not a superhero. I keep my cool in the face of adversity, but I often fall apart. I'm enduring and faithful, but many days I want to give up. My own strength is pretty pathetic, really.
But then I'll try and stay focused on Jesus at my side, and hope that makes me feel stronger. Yet somehow this is still "mustering"...it's still trying to do everything myself, now with just an observer. Still not quite it.
"You therefore my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:1
Be strong in the grace. What does this mean? It sounds pretty good, though. I like the way that feels, but I need to understand that deeper. I feel like knowing this could unlock a mystery about strength.
And so here's the simple story. Come with me for a moment...
I found myself in a small, dim room, completely empty handed. A battle was about to begin outside, and it was loud out there, big and threatening. But for a moment, this room was a rare quiet and secluded spot. I was scared, but safe.
Yet I had this awareness that I wasn't alone. I realized a very quiet, yet noticeably mighty man was standing behind a big table and began to silently place pieces of armor and weapons on the table. With a curious smile, he invited me over to check them out.
I looked and realized that everything he laid down would be helpful for the battle. It was exactly what I needed. My eyes grew bigger.
He seemed to sense what I was thinking and looked at me. "Do you want anything?" I didn't even know where to begin, because I wanted it all! This stuff would be a game changer. My capabilities would be nearly limitless. With these tools in hand, I would be so strong...a force to be reckoned with.
He started to hand things over to me to so I could hold them and see them better.
"Try this one on. It feels good, doesn't it? It fits you perfectly. And this one. It's heavy but just what you need. This other one is ideal, also. Wield it like this and you can keep going for a long time. Oh, and definitely this one. I knew you were coming so I picked this one out just for you."
I felt hope surge up as I realized how much I could do with all of this.
But then my hope sharply fell as I realized something...I couldn't pay for any of this. I knew how expensive these weapons were, how valuable, and it was way out of my price range. "I'm sorry, I can't afford this", and I began to set things down.
He stopped me and looked me straight in the eyes, but almost past my eyes and into my soul. "I know it's expensive. But I want you to have it anyway."
"For nothing? But, I'm probably the weakest one out there! I don't deserve any of this! What if I just take one?"
"No, all of it. Take every piece. They all belong to you. And don't worry, you never need to pay me back."
What? This was way too kind. So gracious. He just gave it all to me so that I could be stronger than my wildest dreams. The battle out there suddenly felt a little more doable. I felt more prepared. I gazed at everything and decided right then that I needed to use every piece to its fullest potential. I wanted to honor him with it. I wanted to show him that this gift wasn't wasted on me.
This is what it means to be strong in His grace. He knows the battle, he knows how weak we are, and he knows what weapons work best. Then he just gives them to us even though we can't pay for it...grace.
And with his gear we're capable of far more strength than we could muster up. We feel endurance and discipline that wasn't there before. It gives us wisdom and patience. We suddenly have just the right words to say, kindness that comes out of nowhere, and peace that makes no sense based on the circumstances.
It's a strength that squeezes into every crack of our soul. And it doesn't come from inside of us at all. It's all a gift.
Back to the story...
I grabbed the gear...all the weapons, every piece of armor, and then turned to leave, feeling confident and strong. The battle was ahead of me still, I knew it was going to be hard, but I was far more prepared. I could taste victory before it even began.
As I moved toward the door, I heard him say from behind me "Wait!"
I looked back, afraid he would change his mind and ask for his stuff back. I was afraid that he realized he made a mistake. But he simply looked at me again, with that smiling stare that cut through to my core and said these words:
"I'm coming with you, too."
Alright, I know...this might be a teensy bit cheesy. But as I'm sitting here dealing with kids, animals, poop, work, relationships, finances, life and taking care of my own body, I need to cling to hope like this. I need to see that I have all the tools I need to handle all of this, and that I am stronger than I thought.
I'm strong in his grace.