What doesn’t kill you…

Unidentified orange red treeSometimes, what doesn’t kill you just makes you really, really tired.

I had a tough September. I was feeling more Crohn’s symptoms than I had in a while.

On Labor Day I was invited to a party, but was fatigued and in terrible pain. Since I didn’t want to miss my friends I drove 25 minutes north of the city, sat on the floor and caught up with a few people, skipped the hors d’oeuvres, and got back in the car after about a half an hour. I was glad I’d done it, but I was ready to go home.

I spent the rest of the day on the couch.

The pain and exhaustion were never going to kill me. Can I say instead they made me stronger? I’m not sure. They made me rest.

There are convoluted ways to turn that into the definition of strength. For someone like me, whose drive to accomplishment often crosses the line into compulsion, perhaps the challenge of resting is in fact strength. Perhaps.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that I do not need it to be true. We are called to more than strength.

There are times when strength is called for, and I am proud to say that I am strong at those moments. But when my weakness is revealed it does not diminish my personhood.

I am loved, and it is that love which defines my existence. My strength does not earn the caring gaze of God, and my weakness will not shame me into hiding from that gaze.

What is your take on these unavoidable moments of weakness?

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8 Responses to What doesn’t kill you…

  1. Flor says:

    Nothing so wholesome or righteous. I’m afraid part of my weakness is a distinct tendency toward cynicism as one of my favorite responses to “that which doesn’t not kill you” is that it often makes you wish it had. When I can think, when I can be reasonable, I can work toward being accepting. It’s not because the alternative for me is to be driven toward accomplishment (I wish I were!), but rather I am susceptible to anxiety and depression. And I didn’t used to understand, but now I do, that these tendencies make me whine A LOT. No one enjoys it, it doesn’t help anything, it really just makes the whole situation worse for no gain. It’s my father’s response to everything that pains him and as much as I admire him, I don’t want to make my loved ones suffer with my aches and pains. So keeping my head on straight is essential if I want to keep my good reason and perspective in place.

    I think I’m better at that now than I used to be. But I have a long way to go before I can really be serene in the face of true misery.

  2. I believe God made life a dichotomy of experiences. Good and bad, strength and weakness, joy and despair, original blessing and original sin, pain and ecstasy, love and darkness, stormy skys and brilliant sunny rainbows. We are all tested, some more than others, and all part of the mystery of what is expected of us and what awaits us. I do know that when experiencing the negative aspects of life that we encounter, the resulting positive side is taken less for granted. And while I may have said this before, it is worth loosely paraphrasing author Victor Frankl once again by noting that “… we should not focus on what we expect from Life, but what Life expects from us..” And I choose to replace the word Life with God. My prayers are with you.

  3. Mau says:

    Knowing how and when to rest is a gift. I am often almost afraid to rest in the tradition sense of the word. Sometimes resting just makes me more aware of pain and makes it harder to resume what has become my “normal” later on. Lately, my motto has become, “Just keep moving.” When I have to stop, resting just isn’t restful, there is no comfortable position – except the floor and the bath tub. When I read that you went to a party and sat on the floor, I wondered if I am not the only one who prefers the floor for resting. I have finally come to know that everyone’s rest is not achieved through sitting or lying down. I find rest through walking with a dog – not any dog, but she’s not mine. Her name is Grace, which I do not believe is a coincidence. I believe she is God-sent. It is these quiet times with Grace that I speak with God and feel my strength return.

  4. “The lowly and invincible of the earth – to endure and endure and then endure, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” Faulkner

  5. Val says:

    I spent many years trying to live by my own strength. Sometimes what dooesn’t kill you makes you stronger…sometimes. Sometimes it’s the being strong that nearly kills you.

    I am a naturally very stoic creature from the fifth generation of a large Irish Catholic family from Boston — Irish women were seemingly (accidentally, circumstantially) selectively bred for indomitable strength, but the problem is that “strength” occupies the same space as being able to accept grace. I am a servant’s servant, but what various illnesses and injuries and circumstantial problems have taught me (tugh the lesson had to practically be beaten into me) is that there is no weakness in the humility of accepting grace.

    I’m aiming at a degree in theology because I’ve done enough comparative religious study in my work toward the previous pan if the degree in history (historical theology isn’t a very big jump) to know that “reliigious studies” is not my thing. But if you do take pause and dredge up mythology and Eastern cosmological belief systems for a minute to humor me for the sake of following my train of thought, the incarnate infant Christ is a very unusual (possibly unique) thing. Most other incarnate avatars of gods and goddesses come onto the scene in a way that looks like the Ascencion run in reverse — fully formed and fully adult. One of the threads — expounded so beautifully in Philippians 2 especially — is that a defining characteristic of the incarnate Christ was the “weakness” of being subject to experiencig life within a human frame.

    I will never, ever, ever fully understand the breadth of the mystery of the dual nature of the second person of the trinity (as I have never been divine), but I take comfort and find strength in the fact that Christ understands the frailty, weakness, and humility of what it means to be human. What does not kill me may or may not make me stronger, but the hidden gift in moments of weakness is great grace — from God directly, or via Christ’s love throiugh the love of his people.

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