"Weak" is not a Four-Letter Word

But I have thought it is.

I've been thinking about writing this post for several months. Wondering if I should write it, and if so, what words to choose. As Isaac Asimov said, "Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers." And I couldn't shake that this was some thinking that I should share.

Weakness has been something I've despised. In myself and others. Especially weakness in women. I remember deciding very purposefully not to be a weak woman. I was going to stay strong. Protect myself from any sort of heart-break by never being vulnerable. Some women might need a man but I wouldn't. No man was ever going to tell me what to do.

I set my face like a flint.

Little by little God has been showing me what He can do with weakness, though. Weakness that is made strong through Him.

I think I can pinpoint the start of this process of God's work in this area when Josh and I started dating and then became engaged. Our relationship challenged who and what I'd thought I wanted to be. I'd planned on staying single. Devote myself to God's work and that sort of thing. But I soon realized I'd tricked myself to some degree. I truly did want to devote myself to God, but I also wanted to protect myself. To remain strong by being single. Single equaled strength to me. But God had a different--and better thing planned. Once I decided to get married I was choosing to open myself up to the possibility of being hurt. And I knew it, in the way most love-struck girls probably never consider. I thought long and hard about the implications of marriage and God used that process to do some deep work in my heart.

However, it was when my parent's marriage blew apart that the real change took place. A dam of self-protection long-held started to crumble. There was no need to hide anymore. Or pretend that everything was okay, because it wasn't. And it was a relief, really.

The girl who rarely cried starting crying all the time. It used to take a lot to make me cry (well, not if I was reading a good sad book, but in real life, that was a different story). Now I cry much more easily. Why? Because before, crying was a sign of the weakness I despised. But God's been building a softness and compassion in me that allows my heart to be broken. Not just for myself, but for others too.

While I was reading Grace for the Good Girl I came to the chapter called "Can't Fall Apart." It was this chapter that got me really thinking about how I viewed weakness. The author, Emily Freeman writes:

'Weak' is not a four-letter bad word. Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility is a lonely place to live. That mask portrays to the world around us that we have it all together, that we can handle the mess, that we don't need people, or worse, that we don't need God.

Weak is not a four-letter bad word stood out to me like it was written in bold. Yes, that's a good way of describing how I've viewed weakness.

And even though God is changing me, I can still be harder on myself than others. As the author, Freeman describes it:

I didn't want to look weak, act weak, or even give the hint that I am capable of weakness. But if you are feeling weak? Well, now. That's a different thing altogether. I can tell you how weakness is the door to strength and how Jesus calls us to a life of weakness so he can be strong. And I believe it. For you.

But do I believe it for me? Little by little I am. Freeman continues:

Consider what Jesus says about weakness. He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). It doesn't make sense to me and it isn't the way I'd have done it. But it is the way of Jesus. He talks about how his grace is enough and about how weakness is the pathway to experiencing his strength. And Paul, the man who had more good-boy point than any other man in the Bible, delighted in his own weakness for Christ's sake. 'For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor. 12:10).

I've been aware of all this changing in my heart. The work is not yet done. I can still close myself off with bitterness. But there's been a decisive change.

Why share all of this? Because I think I'm typical of many women. It's natural to protect one's heart the way I have.

I'd say most women want to be a strong woman. But there are multiple ways to be strong. The first way I've tried is not very pretty. The fact is in my own strength I can be strong. I can pull myself up by my bootstraps. But that strength is built and fed with hardness of heart: bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and even hatred. It closes myself off to others.

Another way is by admitting weakness, brokenness, and need. It allows God to do the strengthening, heart-repair, and protection. It's not being a wimpy door-mat but there's a softness to it, a compassion. And it is welcoming of others and builds community. Not only will I share my weaknesses with you, but I'll welcome you're weaknesses too. And together, we can see God's power displayed in our weaknesses.

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)