But those of you who know me well, know that this is not uncommon for me. For years, I have had to be the ‘strong one.’ I have had to be the shoulder to cry on and a source of comfort for the people around me. I have had to restrain my emotions and face uncomfortable situations head-on. In other words, I’ve had to put my big-girl panties on and just get the job done. This has been true in my career as well as in my personal life.
Thankfully, I come from a fabulous home and a wonderful family, full of love. My heartbreaks growing up were limited to the few instances when we lost a family pet or when I realized that the tooth fairy was not real. But early on, I was expected to perform well, to get good grades, to excel in life. Failure was not an option and I feared disappointing anyone. As I entered adulthood, I had to be the stoic one. Showing strength and courage after a disastrous house fire. Comforting Mom through a painful, unforeseen divorce. Listening patiently as my sister sheds her own tears and vents her frustrations as a wife and mother. Calling Daddy, hundreds of miles away, and telling him everything is alright…even when it’s not.
At work, it was all-too-common for my heart to be crushed. Informing my patient that her cancer has returned. Watching a mother cry, knowing that she can’t afford the quality treatment to help her daughter detox off heroin. Telling a young, newlywed couple that their infant child may not survive his 13-hour heart surgery, scheduled for tonight. Hearing hearts break as a room full of people say their final goodbyes to a husband, father, grandpa, and friend. Explaining to a wife that the doctors did all they could for her husband…but he won’t be going home with her tonight…or any night thereafter.
All of these situations have contributed to the building up of my emotional walls and reinforcing them year after year. It is not something that I am necessarily proud of. Rather, it is more of a defense mechanism—a way to protect my heart and ensure that I will be strong enough to handle the next heart-breaking situation that is right around the corner. Because, truth is, this is a fallen world and pain is inevitable. Some people may interpret my lack of tears as being insensitive, but that is not the case at all. I see your tears and I feel your pain. I WANT to cry with you, but I can’t. I can’t let my guard down and risk being crippled by the pain. I can’t be vulnerable or show weakness.
What is it about those words that sting so badly? What is it that makes them echo and pierce us so deeply? It is almost as if such qualities are shameful…as if opening myself up and admitting that I ‘just can’t do it’ is somehow admitting defeat.
But what if that is exactly what we are supposed to do—Admit defeat. Admit failures. Admit short-comings. Admit my need for a Savior.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells us a story of the prodigal son—a boy that wants to be grown. He wants to do life his own way and prove that he is mature enough to make his own decisions and take care of himself. But as the story unfolds, we see that the boy begins to fall apart. He has reached a dead end and begins to recall and appreciate the safety and security he once had with his father. And the most beautiful part of the story is the picture scripture paints for us of a father who longs to care for his son. His arms are open wide, anticipating the reunion with his son and the opportunity to, once again, be the father his son needs.This father’s desire is not a foreign concept.
God created men to be leaders of their families. Therefore, it comes natural that men want to effectively execute their role as a father. There is something in the chemical make-up of a man that he desires to be the backbone of his family and provide for his children, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
The same is true of God. As our Heavenly Father, He wants nothing more than to have His children run to Him. With arms open wide, he wants to hold us tight, comfort our hurting hearts, and wipe away all our tears. He longs to embrace us with his unconditional love and strength. He wants to counsel us, lead us, and make our paths straight.
So, it is okay to show weakness. We don’t always have to be the ‘strong one.’ I don’t have to always be the strong one. In fact, I am beginning to see that it is best that I stop striving to be strong because when I don’t measure up, which is more often than not, I can find strength and comfort knowing that He is able. It is okay for me to ‘fall apart’ when the pain is just too much, because as a child of God, I belong to the One that can restore me and rebuild my heart. He will be there in the pain to pull me up and strengthen me to continue His call.
All that being said, I realize that it is easier said than done. As my time here in Busega continues to dissolve like the sand in an hourglass, I can feel my walls beginning to reinforce. I don’t want to leave my family behind. I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t want to experience the pain that is bound to come…
But I can hear His still, small voice reassuring me that He is here.
And He will continue to be here.He sees my fear and my pain and He is quietly reminding me that it is okay.
And then He whispers,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”