Not that strong


"You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Supposedly, Christopher Robin  said this to Winnie the Pooh, but I don't believe everything the Internet says - do not even get me started on St. Francis and 'preach the Gospel at all times...', something he never said, despite how many times it's quoted! Also, it may just be a false statement. My recollection of reading Pooh's wonderful adventures leads me to conclude that however much his friend loved him, Pooh was not all that smart. Or strong. Or brave.

And neither am I.

This is not false modesty, or lack of belief. I am definitely not smarter than I think I am, because my problem is that I think I am smarter than most people! I do not doubt my intelligence, but I am occasionally chagrined into admitting that it is not boundless. So there's that.

I am also not stronger than I seem. Again, I think I am pretty strong. When I first met my husband, he was moving, and I gamely offered to help. One of the last things left in the apartment was a giant TV - not a flat screen, but one of those from the 90s with the full mechanics inside of it, and it weighed a ton. We were carrying it down three flights of stairs and over to the dumpster to be taken away. Of course I thought I was strong enough to hold up my end! Was I? Not by a long shot. My wrist still hurts from where I was sure I broke it while I sagged under the weight, crying.

And brave? Well, not so much. Here I don't overestimate my abilities; I am staunchly realistic. I just got back from driving to Houston and back again to North Carolina - over 1,200 miles each way, that was at times pretty harrowing. All because flying makes me panic. And it is not just air travel - I am easily side-tracked into worry and anxiety over just about anything: every strange pain makes me Google cancer symptoms; every time my husband goes for a bike ride I think of distracted drivers; when small things look difficult I think it's disaster. I am not the least bit brave.

Most of my outward positive characteristics are undergirded by all manner of frailty, and that's the truth. I think Winnie the Pooh would agree!

But I really don't feel the need to be stronger, or braver, or smarter. I'm ok with where I am, just trying to be faithful. 'Be not afraid,' Jesus says, again and again, throughout the Gospels. And in this I do not hear an admonishment of my anxious ways, I feel an invitation into a strength I know is there but will probably never possess myself. I am afraid, but I don't need to be - the love of God is stronger than anything, even death, and I believe that. Strangely, it doesn't make me less afraid, but it does make it all ok.

Sometimes it seems like we are overwhelmed with people trying to get us to improve ourselves. I get it - I do get on board with being healthier or more fit or more productive. But underneath all of this can be a very subtle 'or else', way deep down in our reasoning. Because if we are not getting better - being better - than we were before, maybe we are failing. Maybe we can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or fake it till we make it or prove we are stronger than we think we are. And if this is true, then what? Growing braver, smarter, and stronger are great if that's what we want, what we are capable of. But knowing our limitations is ok, too.

What I love about Christianity is that it makes me believe that God loves me in spite of my weakness. Maybe even because of it. And God loving me in my weakness does not make me stronger, only more dependent on God's love. God knows I am not brave, I don't have to be brave for God, and I love God all the more because of this. My life does not need justification - no one's does - we are loved because we were made from love, and for love.

'Little ones to him belong, they are weak and he is strong.' Yes, Jesus loves me. And you, too. Even if, like Pooh, we know we're just kind of averagely intelligent, aware of our weakness, and a little bit afraid.