looking through me

Tag: strength

fierce

Framing my desk is a wall of poetry and three quotes—one from a friend, one from a book and one from Shakespeare. They’re words that stretch my field of vision on cloudy days.

But the Shakespeare one has been nagging at me lately. Is it true? Should it be true? Would I want it to be true of me?

My answer used to be automatic. Yes. Absolutely, let it be said of me: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

It conjures an image of strength and feistiness. A scrappy soul.

And that seemed like a good thing. A resilient, little fighter.

But . . . when did life devolve to battling, to winning, to success being reduced to not failing?

The language started chafing when my grandma was journeying her final nineteen months. Why was she pushed to “beat” pneumonia? Why was a “fighting spirit” the highest praise? It rubbed me wrong that instead of celebrating her nine decades of grace and humor we championed a war against aging.

And as countless people I love—and people loved by people I love—are diagnosed with cancer or face other progressive challenges, the language is instantly one of battle. But isn’t life more than fighting death?

The line ran through my head again this morning as a friend prepares for a double mastectomy and another friend’s dad is imprisoned overseas and my own dad is confined to a hospital bed. No, I thought, I don’t want to be boiled down to ferocity. Unless the sentence continues.

May I be fiercely truthful, fiercely compassionate, fiercely loyal.
May I be fiercely present.
May I be fiercely hopeful and fiercely prayerful.
May I be fiercely courageous in locking arms with my people in the good and the hard.

And though I be but little, may I be fierce . . . in love.

 

 

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for the joy

“. . . for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That snippet of scripture runs through my head over and over. As Grandpa is in the hospital,[1] as Grandma is on hospice, as nine people are gunned down while praying, as friends watch one of their newborn twins die—as the week unfolds in hard upon horror upon agony—those words slip through the static.

And when they do I am back in a blue-walled, un-air-conditioned sanctuary in inner city Philadelphia. It’s a steamy, hot July day fifteen years ago, and the words are coming out of the mouth of a puppet named Job, accompanied by a guitar and energetic day campers. It’s always the setting for those words. Always.

But today I read the words and the soundtrack stopped. The singing of the children faded away as I noticed the beginning of the sentence: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”[2]

Do not be grieved.

There is reason to grieve. Reasons are piling up by the minute. Grieving is necessary. The pain and loss is real. But it is not the end.

Even in the face of death—in a setting different from the one in which the words were first declared—strength can still be found. Not in retribution or even justice. Not in peace or resignation. No. Strength comes in a more disarming fashion: joy.

“. . . for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I need that strength. I need that joy. I need that God.

 


[1] He is now rehabilitating out of the hospital.
[2] Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)

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