Wednesday, January 18

proud strength

Words get us through every minute of our day. We depend on signs and warnings to stay on the road, stay away from danger, stay headed the right way. We listen for good news and bad news, weather news and entertainment news. We read for hobby and pleasure, work and obligations. We're flooded with words every day and I wonder how often we give and receive words that we really don't understand.

I'm playing a words game with my mother-in-law (and other Friends) and our most recent game was off to a great start. I played 'strong' for 22 points and she played 'pride' for 18. I never even noticed the parallel in these two words until I read them, standing alone on our jelly-bean colored screen. How many times have I said I am strong, when I was probably saying I'm full of pride?

I know many, many women who ask to be, claim to be, hope to be 'strong'. I am one of those women. I describe my grandmothers as strong women, upholding cattle ranches and raising children in the days without iPads. I describe my mother as strong, raising three kids-one a special needs child-holding two or three jobs at a time, and surviving some of the roughest days known to women including deaths and illness and heartbreak. I've even claimed myself to be a strong woman, making it on my own, figuring out what I want and getting it, and overcoming fears and struggles.

And it seems all too easy to replace my 'strong' with 'pride'. In fact, pride is described as an 'inwardly directed emotion' and negatively as 'an inflated sense of one’s achievements, status, or accomplishments'.

Tom Board says that when we live out of fear, we live selfishly and only for ourselves. We turn everything inward, protecting ourselves, defending ourselves, and forgetting about anything but ourselves. He also says that the only way to be married is to turn away from that instinct, to live outward.

And my relationship with God is a marriage. It is an agreement to love and honor in good days and bad days. He betrothed me, asking me to be His, and when I agreed, I agreed to live outward for Him and for others. When I say that I am strong because I have overcome, accomplished and achieved, I am actually saying that I am too proud to admit that God overcame fear and sin and gave me gifts and opportunities to do great things for His kingdom. I forget that I am weak on my own, and I am not capable of such amazing things without Him. I forget that without His sacrifice, without His strength to stand against sin, I wouldn't have any accomplishments to boast about anyway.

Most definitions you find of strength are about physical power and muscular ability, and a mention or two about mental ability and vigor, but nothing about the jobs we've gotten, the shoes we own, or the success we've earned. If I'm going to be strong, I want to be the kind of strong that stands on the foundation I have learned about. I want to be the kind of strong that does not tremble in the sight of danger or fear, or the kind of strong that does not know the word 'quit'. I want to be the kind of strong that only God can teach me by showing me truth and light, and helping me stand against the battles of the enemy. I no longer want to be the kind of strong that says, 'I'll do this on my own, I'm a big girl and I can handle it', because I can't. I don't want to be the kind of strong that says I am too proud to admit that I am nothing without my God, and my God is everything. I want to be the kind of strong that says I am not proud, I have no reason to be.

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