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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

Tender Strength

For many years, this has been my early morning scene. A sweet friend who is never ashamed of being sensitive, and the opened book that tells stories of a mighty God who formed the creation from the swelling waves of the oceans to the looming peaks of the mountains; and yet still came to earth as a helpless babe. Yeager served in some of the darkest places of our time. He witnessed and was ultimately victim to hatred that doesn't care to know the name of who they hate, only that they hate. And yet this animal who could be hardened still gives and seeks endless love, and more comically will not go outdoors without carrying one of his stuffed babies.

Cover to cover, consistently, strength is illustrated in the meekest of characters; the unexpected, the unworthy, the insecure. I have been tempted time and again to measure my worth by worldly standards that even as I mount each new height, never seems to satisfy. I recall in a high school history class, as we began a religious study, a teacher mockingly said that some people believe Jesus rose after his death. Without missing a beat and with the confidence of naivete I spoke up, that I was one of those people. It caused an unintended scene. Afterwards, a dear friend took me aside and embarrassed for me said, "Caroline, why can't you just leave things alone?" What she didn't know, and couldn't have known, is that has stayed with me through the years and I have stayed silent to not risk embarrassing myself or someone else, on more than one occasion. She couldn't have known the gargantuan growth and courage it took for me to speak up.

You see, if you want to see meek, rewind my life two decades, and you will find a little girl whose earthly father taught her she was unworthy as she was. He would rage at her tender tears, beat whatever was out of his alignment into submission, she didn't read enough, wasn't smart enough, wasn't skinny enough; in short, she was not and would never be his vision of perfection. His truths wrapped so tightly around my soul, that I became essentially mute. When I did speak, words were few and carefully chosen as to not risk offense. If I allowed myself to cry, I would hide. I couldn't be weak, weak was offensive to my father and I loved my father.

It has been slow, but over the years, I have worked on reparenting myself with a Father who is Love and Mercy and Grace. Someone I loved recently heard me express my fears openly and said something that landed similarly as the words from my friend from high school, he said "how can someone who has their life so put together be so insecure and scared about everything?" He seemed embarrassed by my sensitivities. It felt like a condemnation that didn't set well. He didn't understand my journey. He didn't understand that my free flow of expression wasn't insecurity, but years and years of learning to accept my shortcomings and what he witnessed was my vulnerable self being bold enough to speak freely. Far from the mute little girl, I now work through my heartaches and concerns through talking them to death (at times excessively). Like a piece of art, I hold it in my hand, turn it from side to side, examine each curve, each twist, each stroke, how does it flow together, why does it stay together, what is the purpose of this? I examine and examine, until I feel that I have understood it completely, and then I revisit it perhaps when questioned or I feel my insights could be comfort to another. What he viewed as weakness, I view as decades of strength and confidence being restored.

I have learned this about myself and know all too well this causes some to question my security and strength, at times even myself. Then I am reminded of God, and how he has stood witness to all the atrocities done at the hands of men. He has intimately witnessed child sacrifices, genocides, deception, wanton greed, cruelties that my mind cannot fathom. And yet, through his faithful consistency and love in the Old Testament, and his meek arrival on earth as a baby Jesus in the New Testament, I see how he is still tender. His ability to hurt and weep does not make him weak. He doesn't lack confidence, but rather his ability to hurt and continue on course reflects sublime confidence and courage. In his meekness, he is stronger than any force imaginable.

Yeager still carries his babies. Sometimes I get frustrated with him when we are in a hurry and he realizes that he doesn't have a baby and then takes his time to go find one. Why can't he just hurry up and forget about it once in awhile! And then I am humbled when I catch myself wanting to subdue a tenderness that took strength and perseverance to foster and protect. I am reminded of the people who in exasperation have said, "Caroline why can't you just move on already!" It is not the person who avoids the gym that is strong; and likewise when we avoid dealing with our struggles, we are not creating strength, we are simply avoiding the painful repetitions that build strength. When we tear our muscles to build strength, it hurts; if you've never used the bathroom after leg day, maybe you can't relate. Even more, if we don't find our weakest muscles and work them, we are creating imbalance; the wise body builder knows this. Maybe the person who weeps appears weak, but I would wager that more often than not, their tears are broken sinews that will heal into stronger, more resilient muscles. Being bold in our weaknesses is not for the faint of heart. Be bold anyway.

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