Thursday, May 8, 2008

Inner Strength

One's perception of "inner strength" is relative, depending on one's background, life-style and experiences.

For example my Grandmother, Velma Louise Lawson Griffith, felt that being a "strong woman" meant having a strong hand with her children. It meant not showing emotion in public. It meant never having to apologize even when she knew she was wrong. It meant working hard and never complaining. Anything other than this, was what Grandma Griffith viewed as signs of weakness. She wanted to be a strong woman. I think this was common of her generation. Perhaps it stems from being a child of the Depression Era. Have you noticed that these people never smiled in their photographs? I remember an old black & white photo of some of my ancestors; all of them bearing stoic expressions. Definitely a product of the Depression; even the photo is depressing. No one looks happy.

My mother was a Baby Boomer. For clarification, Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 - 1963. Then women discovered "the pill" and our nation began to see a sharp decline in births. My mother was born in the midst of this. She can remember when she was "allowed" to wear pants to school. Girls wearing pants to school? Women taking birth control pills? What's next?Shaving legs? Going to college? Working outside the home? That's exactly what happened. Feminism was unleashed with a vengeance. Women of this generation were said to be "strong".

It's true that I come from a long line of "strong women", and I feel this pressure to be strong myself. I was raised to have my own opinions. I was raised to think for myself, and to have enough confidence in myself to stand up for the things I believe in. In this respect, I feel I am just as strong as my mother, and her mother, and her mother's mother. But the inner strength I desire, or sometimes need, goes well beyond that.

Some days it takes all my inner strength to get up out of bed, or to do the laundry, or even cook dinner. It takes all my inner strength to put a smile on my face and go to work in the morning or to church on Sundays; to face the world. It's not depression. I've been there before, and that can be dark. This is more...exhaustion, maybe? I suppose some would call it laziness or lack of motivation. Perhaps those words are more befitting. Or maybe it's because I look at my life today and realize I am in a place I never imagined I would be. Maybe I'm just feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Sometimes, when someone tells me that I am a strong person, I want to scream, "I don't feel strong!" I watched the "Emma Smith: My Story" movie last week. It was sort of apropos to the way I had been feeling. The motif was all about Inner Strength. The quote that sticks out in my mind most is "We don't just have strength, we have to find it." I had to remind myself that only I can determine my own happiness. If I lack motivation, I have to be the one to find it. If I feel weak, it is up to me to find strength.

I also like that quote because it says we have to find strength. The notion that we have to find it, indicates that it is lost, which in turn indicates we had it to begin with. God sent each of us here to earth with an innate sense of strength. However, it is through our mortal experiences in which we become chiseled down and lose that strength.

Now that I have reminded myself of this, I have to ask, "What am I doing to find strength?" The answer is all of a sudden very clear. I am already doing it. I am doing things each and every day to find strength. Strength comes through prayer, it comes through scripture study. Strength comes by way of others, through the tender mercies of the Lord. I know that I am meant to live where I live, have the friends I have, the church calling I have, the job I have and the family I have so that I can find strength. These are all tender mercies. The Lord has placed these people and these things in my life to remind me that I am not alone, and that I was not meant to do it alone. When I have no more strength to give, I can rely on the strength of others. This is the Lord's way of telling me he loves me, and that I am a child of God. And it is having this knowledge above all else, the knowledge that He loves me, that continues to give me strength.

Finding strength, I have come to learn, is a process. It's the whole, "one step at a time", "precept upon precept" process. When we learn that we are strong in one area of our life, we can move on to something else. It's not so much that we are strong in all things all the time, but more so that we continue to find strength in the little things and build upon those.

The point is we keep trying. We learn from our mistakes, we learn from our experiences, then we make a choice. And often the choices we make are more about the choices we leave behind.

And sometimes, just making the decision to choose is enough strength in and of itself - even if that choice is simply going back to bed.

1 comment:

Mel and Byde said...

Emma-
You do have "inner strength" You are amazing and so insightful. The fact that you want to find your strength or find ways to improve it just proves how strong you already are. The strengthing that you're wanting,you will get, you have already taken many of the steps to get there. Those tender mercies will keep coming and your clarity will increase.

Everyone needs a little extra sometimes to "just face the world" and if you choose to go back to bed one day, then do it, you'll be stronger for it the next day.

So, keep being the "strong woman" you already are-you'll find the added strength you desire. Mel:)