I knew these women had to be strong. I was at MAF’s headquarters for the first time, and feeling small. The women there had lived lives overseas. Some had been through riots, evacuations, malaria. They’d had babies in foreign lands. They could speak foreign languages. They could pluck a chicken with one hand while creating gourmet cinnamon rolls with the other. From real scratch.
They had stories and experiences and strength. And I had nothing. The most I could do was utter a few words of high school Spanish and heat up a frozen lasagna from Wal-Mart.
So, I spent my first few years in Indonesia trying to measure up. Trying to prove that I could be strong, too. Trying to sacrifice for Him, give away all I had. If I had a need, I kept it to myself. If I wished something was different, I tried not to complain. When the hard times hit, I dug deep inside, hoping I’d come up with something resembling strength.
Fast forward a few years and in some ways, I am stronger. I know a foreign language. I’ve lived through a riot in my town. My family had been through its own trials, sicknesses. I’ve had babies overseas. And I’ve learned to deal with many of the stresses of life here better than when I first came. (Though I have never and never plan to pluck any chickens.)
But in many, many ways, I grow weaker. I came without babies and now have been through three hot, nauseous, anemic, exhausting pregnancies that leave me weak and lost. I’ve entered motherhood with all its sleepless, worrisome, hormonal vulnerabilities. I’ve made responsible, wise plans only to have them dashed by the uncertainty of life here. And I’ve lived with a heart broken for the people here—solutions long in coming, sometimes never coming.
And it gets harder and harder to pretend, my own weakness oozing through the cracks in my skin-deep strength.
The truth is, I still don’t measure up…not to what I want to be. Certainly not that strong wife and mom who can roll with the punches, handle any problem with complete flexibility, plucking at that chicken with one hand and rolling out dough for gourmet cinnamon rolls with the other.
Instead, I am a sweaty, teary, weary mess, waking up at 2 a.m. with that sick child and my dark thoughts. Too many times, I put my faith in myself. Not asking Him for help. Not trusting in His sacrifice for my own joy. Not letting myself hope for His answers.
I’ve told myself that He demands my sacrifices, expect me to buck up and be strong, and requires me to accept the lack instead of hope for His abundance.
Then more lies. That I have to do all this because He isn’t strong enough or good enough or cares enough anyway. It’s all up to me. Messy, teary, weary me covered with smiles and shrugs and shallow, shifting human “strength.”
But during a recent dark, teary night as I watched all my plans fall into a heap before me, I opened that book of promises. Filled with urges to ask Him, to lean on Him, to trust Him. Filled with truth of His love, His sacrifice, His strength.
And I realized, I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to be strong. And it’s not all about my sacrifice, not when He took care of all that with His own.
Sure, life will continue to be filled with struggles, even if I beg God to take them all away. But I don’t have to go through them on my own. That promise is clear.
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
photo credit, michal_hadassah