I’ve thought a lot about strength lately. Working full-time, raising three young kids, my husband going through a job change… During this crazy life stage, I hear a lot of, “You’re so strong”; “How do you do it all?”; “How are you so strong?” It’s flattering to hear, and sometimes I think to myself, “Wow I have them fooled!” Other times I almost cringe inside and want to cry, “If they only knew how weak I really feel.” It’s usually in the moments when I’m trying to do things on my own, be tough, and look strong and unfazed that I’m the actually the weariest.
Webster’s defines strength as “being able to withstand great force or pressure.” In today’s society, we must wear masks and fool others into believing that we are so strong until we actually can convince ourselves we are unbreakable. But, I’ve found that it’s in the brokenness and weak moments of my life when I discover my true strength. My strength is actually found in not being strong at all, but in being vulnerable and dependent.
I recently read a story about a safari guide who saw a group of lions that learned to hunt and take down elephants. “How could lions bring down an elephant,” he wondered. People had always talked about the lion being the king of the jungle—even at Disney’s Animal Kingdom—but this guide knew from experience that wasn’t true.
Elephants are, and have been, the king of the bush. They are massive, scary, and truly dominant. In my research, I found that lions actually respect elephants. The safari guide recounted that there were hundreds of times he had watched an elephant approach lions, and the lions always backed off. It was a rare occurrence for a lion to take down an elephant, because, wouldn’t they prefer easier prey? When he was finally able to see it happen, it was a smaller elephant. The pride of lions began to separate it from the herd. Almost in militant formation, they began to attack the elephant. Some would surround it, while others would jump on its back or get at its legs. It wasn’t a violent attack—it was slow, calm, methodical, and over time, the lions wore the elephant down. The pride was cautious and deliberate in their attack, slowly weakening the elephant until there was nothing left.
Find Your Herd and Find Strength
I can relate. When I’m with “my herd” I feel strong and capable, but when I get separated, I can feel myself being weakened and worn down, surrounded, beat down, and eventually, it feels like I have no strength left. I believe true strength is the ability or willingness to be broken only to be put back together and still be used. In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff says, “It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”
Maybe you find yourself feeling weak or like you’re being surrounded, jumped on, and broken down; friend, find your herd and find strength. I gather much of my strength from hearing another mom’s story of her kids doing or acting exactly as mine do. I find strength in knowing that I’m not alone—knowing that someone else can relate and even empathize. I find strength in knowing that if others are going through the same things and are surviving, then I can too. I find strength in hearing and ultimately sharing the same brokenness as someone else in my herd.
True strength is not found by shouting loudly, “I can do it,” but found when we are able to say, “I can’t do it.” True strength is admitting we need something or someone in a weak moment. Strength comes from relinquishing control and letting others assist in carrying your load.
If we are going to be able to withstand great force and pressure, as the definition of strength suggests, then we have to be made strong. The definition says “being able to withstand…” How can we withstand great forces or pressures of life if we don’t put ourselves in positions to be able to? Who makes us strong? What makes us strong? Maybe your herd is your husband, your mom, your sister, a group of girlfriends, a church group, a work group, the list goes on. Or maybe what makes you strong is a bubble bath and a Nicholas Sparks book, or a 30-minute walk listening to your favorite podcast on motherhood (currently one of my favorites). Whatever or whoever it is, go to it, get strength from it, use it or them to be able to keep on keeping on.
If we endured or survived a certain pressure in life but are mentally exhausted, bitter, or have nothing left to give to anyone after the fact, and if we never asked for help, sought guidance, didn’t communicate or open up about it, are we really strong? Withstanding great force or pressure successfully makes us appear strong on our own because we came through the experience, but that strength is fleeting and can’t be sustained because we most likely sacrificed something else emotionally or relationally.
We Are Stronger When We Stand Side by Side
The world sees a strong person as someone who has a stone face, determined to fight their Goliath with brute force. The world sees a strong person as someone who doesn’t cry or who doesn’t let her guard down. The world sees true strength as finishing on her own—alone—for the world to see what she was strong enough to do. The world sees strength as unmarred and unscathed at least on a surface look because she is so strong and smart as to deflect hurt, pain, failure, shame, and fear. The world sees strength as independent of any resource or support so as to not have to share the glory with anyone or anything after beating her Goliath. The world sees strength as following her heart over doing what is right. The world says to define your own version of “right” and that will make you strong as long as you “stick to it.” Rebellion is seen as a strength. But after you “win” on your own, what are you left with? Who are you left with? And do you even have the strength to face the next Goliath?
An essential part of being able to be “strong” is being able to use wisdom and discernment when lions come around, being careful not to let them separate you from your herd. It’s impossible for a pride of lions to take down a herd of elephants, and when one elephant is faced with one lion, the lion usually backs down. But when we get separated from our herd, we are weak and defenseless—able to be worn down over time. I’ve found that it’s usually when I’m alone, or at night while everyone is sleeping that the lions of doubt, comparison, guilt, and so on try to attack. I’m not saying to never be alone, but definitely be on guard for any lion that likes to rear its ugly head over and over. Maybe have that person you can call or text and know that they will quickly stand side by side with you and intimidate that lion.
Although a lion looks strong or has the reputation of being strong doesn’t mean it can achieve true strength on its own—it needs its pride, the group. A lion, when face to face with an elephant, backs down—I would have never thought that! It reveals that perception isn’t always reality. A woman who looks like she is conquering might be backing down in private. A woman who looks weak may have gotten separated from her herd, and the pride of lions is wearing her down little by little. She may need a herd of others just like her to come along and rescue her. That is true strength: being willing to be rescued and to help rescue others. Strength is not only taking precautions to not be separated, but strength is also not allowing others to separate and fall under the attack of the enemy.
Today you may need to go find your herd or just simply go and check on someone within yours. Don’t let her fight alone.
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