Sometimes we get this idea that the grace of God must be most powerful in the lives of the people who seem to have it all together and maintain a strong relationship with God. That they are the ones who God is working in most mightily and will use to change the world. We think of strong people like David and the way he slew Goliath... of Elijah and how he called down fire from heaven... of the mother of Jesus and the inconceivable gift she brought into the world... Aren’t the strong and brave the ones who make clearest to the world the grace of God? I beg to differ. Shadows fall and again I pause in our little living room by the warm glow of the fire. Christmas lights sparkle in multiple colors spreading a soft light around the room. I’ve been here a lot of nights lately and though I miss the sleep, there is nothing in the world that compares to these moments in the stillness with Jesus. It’s in these quiet nights that I ponder the paradox of strength and weakness. I’ve prized strength all my life. Sometimes what I call strength though is more merely a firm determination to grip onto control of my life. Control of my feelings. Control of my future. Control of my relationships. Control of the way I allow others to perceive me. I flounder when I think I’m starting to loose control. When life changes, plans fail, and unknown creeps in, I find myself grasping for something to hold onto... something to control. But somehow I can’t think of any friend of Jesus who has ever been able to grip onto the reigns of control for their whole life. I reminisce about the time He sat down beside me and puts His arm on my shoulder and how I relaxed a little and held the reigns less tightly. And then He pried gently at my little finger until I was willing to let go of what it held. His hand held the reigns with much more stability than I ever could, so when He asked me to let go with the next finger, I did. And again and again. It’s a little more terrifying now He asks me to take my hand off the reigns altogether though. Because isn’t it weak people who hold no control over their life? Isn’t it weak people who ride through the storm with absolutely no idea which direction they’re going? Isn’t it weak people who give up and let someone else do things for them? I think of what I naturally consider strong and I picture valliant soldiers riding over rocky mountains and descending through deep valleys. I picture late nights around a campfire studying their maps and planning the next day’s journeys. I picture people like David. People like Elijah. But I’m not so sure He does. I sit by my own fire at night and instead of planning my course, I hear Him whispering for me to take my hand off the reigns altogether. I tell Him I can’t. That I’m not brave enough. Not strong enough. Not bold enough. That I don’t know what will happen if I let go, and that there’s nothing quite as terrifying as the unknown. He keeps asking though. Sometimes I distract myself throughout the day but when darkness falls and all is still, I hear the gentle whisper of love again and again. I inch closer and the warmth of His heart melts me. Like it always does. I look up into His eyes and I know my answer. I slip my hand off the reigns. I still sit awake at my little spot by the fire in the following nights, but this time I hear His whispered lessons, instead of whispered pleas. Hours pass and I start to see strength in a new light. Maybe strength isn’t about having it all together. Maybe it’s not about how tight we can hold onto control. David was strong, but not because he killed Goliath. That was God’s part. David’s strength was in his willingness to go and do for God when he was just a small unprotected boy. Elijah stood firm on top of Mount Carmel, but hours later cowered alone in the dark and asked God to take his life. Oh he was strong on the mount alright, but he was stronger when he followed the still small Voice beckoning him to leave the cave he had hidden in and once again face the world. And Mary, the one who brought our Jesus into the world... she was strong but only because she recognized her own nothingness and clung with all her girlish heart to the word of the angel when the whole world frowned. No, the strong ones aren’t the warriors whipping their reigns and traversing over rocky mountains. They’re not the ones who have it all together and go to Jesus occasionally for additional strength. They’re not the ones who smile and sing praises because their life is all things bright and beautiful. I pull the blanket around me a little tighter, and my eyes see a little clearer. The strong are the ones who hold onto the hand of Jesus when everything in their lives has been flipped upside down. The strong believe when it feels like the waters of life are lapping around their neck. The strong don’t stop hoping in the goodness of God when the thunder claps above their head and the waves crash beneath their feet. Because the friends of Jesus who are truly strong? They know their weakness through and through. They know that they can’t direct their own path or control their own life. They don’t sing praises because all is well. They don’t smile because all is bright and beautiful. The strong ones? The smile because they love Jesus. Even in the midst of their own personal earthquakes. In fact, they love Him then more than ever. That’s what makes them brave. I lean my head on His shoulder and rest as I watch Him hold the reigns. I breathe easier. It’s then He reaches down and slips His hand into mine. I smile. He hadn’t asked me to let go so I’d have nothing to hold. He wanted me to let go so He could hold my hand. Because this? This is strength.
You Make Me Brave
I stand before You now The greatness of Your renown I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You King of Heaven, in humility, I bow As Your love, in wave after wave Crashes over me, crashes over me For You are for us You are not against us Champion of Heaven You made a way for all to enter in I have heard You calling my name I have heard the song of love that You sing So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore Into Your grace Your grace Cause You make me brave You make me brave You call me out beyond the shore into the waves You make me brave You make me brave No fear can hinder now the promises You made.