What Doesn't Kill You......
“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone”
I don't think Kelly Clarkson meant this song to be spiritual in nature, but it is was for me. This used to be my mantra, my anthem: I am strong, I am capable, I am together! But then the unimaginable happened and suddenly I wasn't.
I have lived through the unlivable. I survived what I never thought I could. And I was not strong. I was scared, I felt alone, I was lonely, I was downright panicked. I was nearly swallowed by the darkness and the hopelessness. But I survived. I am surviving. And not on my own. There was a Power at work in me that I acknowledged, but didn't understand. There was a Power in me that was pulling for me when I wanted to give in and give up. God's Spirit was in me saying, “You'll get through this. You are going to make it. You don't have to know how and you don't have to figure it all out. All you have to do is trust. But you will need help. Accept My help.”
Help has never been easy for me to accept. Needing help on any level is a sign of weakness. And weakness is a bad thing, or so I always thought. Weakness opens you up – it opens up the cracks for others to get in, to see inside, to see the mess that is really me in spite of what I pretend. And that mess is not pretty – it is petty, it is scared, it is doubtful, it is selfish, it is greedy, it is even bitter and unforgiving and angry sometimes-no, a lot of the time, it feels entitled, and it is very prideful. It is human. And it wants to be loved and if all that ugliness that is the mess of me is known to you, then you may not love me.
And if you don't love me, that means I am no good – right? I am not worthy of love if you know all the mess inside. So I will put up the facade – the “I have it all together” attitude, the “Yes, I am fine” face, the “I can handle this all on my own” pose, the “I've got this” stance. And then the unthinkable happens and all those shields crumble, they shatter into tiny pieces all around you and land at your feet and you are left defenseless, visible to for all to see who you really are – actually who you really are not. You are not strong, you don't have it all together, you totally do not have this – whatever this is for you.
For me, it was my husband dying. For you it might be death of a loved one, but it might not. It might be a diagnosis you didn't want. It might be a financial crisis you can't see a way through. It might be a prodigal son or daughter. It might be a job loss, or a move, or a hurtful word or betrayal from someone you thought trustworthy. It might be any one of a million things that just destroys and crumbles the tidy little life you have set up and all the shields and fences you put up around you to keep the mess in. And suddenly, the mess is no longer contained, but out there. You have become the mess you have fought so hard to hide deep inside. And you are ashamed. You are ashamed you are not strong, you are ashamed you aren't together, you are ashamed you DO NOT HAVE THIS.
But slowly, very slowly, over time, you are able to see just a tiny bit around the mess, through the mess, a little glance above the mess, a tiny glimpse past the mess, And there are people still there. And God is still there. You have not been left alone in your mess. You never were. And you still are not strong, you still are not together, you still don't have this. But there are still people there, and more importantly, God is still there. He knows your mess, all of it – He always has. And yet, He is still there – He always was.
You begin to see the pale pinks and purples of the sunrise, you begin to hear the birds sing again, you begin to feel the ground beneath your feet. And you realize it was there all along. You put one foot in front of the other when that was all you could manage, and suddenly you feel like you might again, one day, dance or skip or even run. You find small pleasure in things you thought you never would again. The fog begins to lift just a bit and the sun is still there – it shines through, gently and warmly. You begin to feel the raindrops instead of the storm. And through it all, people are still there. Through it all, God is still there. Your mess-your brokenness, your flaws, your tears and your wailings, your doubts and your fears? Your mess did not scare God off. He didn't turn His back on you. He held you in the palm of His hand and patiently waited for you to notice. He waited for you to notice that HE is strong, that HE has it all together, that HE has got this for you – whatever “it” is.
No, what doesn't kill you doesn't make you stronger – it makes you weaker. Yes, weakness opens you up. And maybe that was what it was intended to do all along.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. II Corinthians 12:9