“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.
“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
“Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien).
I started off strong.
Or so I thought.
When I was born, my parents named me Laura, which means “Victory.” Appropriately, I was successful in just about anything I tried: swimming, running, reading, writing, math, science, acting, and leadership—you name it, I could do it, and do it well. As I grew up, our winner-loving culture accepted me with open arms and lured me along with incentives to keep striving toward strength and success.
I learned that a strong person earns her keep, competes fiercely, is never satisfied, denies failure, and guards herself from anyone who might tear her down. (Sounds like a Nike commercial, doesn’t it?)
Interestingly, my middle name means “Christian,” and from the time of my birth, Jesus Christ was also working in my life. He drew me to Himself when I was just a child. Though I only faintly grasped the truths of the gospel at that young age, Jesus saved me.
You’d think that this dynamic duo—Victory + Jesus—would result in an amazingly strong Christian. But as it turns out, something else happened entirely.
Striving to Be Weak
The work Jesus has been doing in my heart is diametrically opposed to strength and success. For as long as I can remember, He has been turning my attention toward the outcast, breaking my heart over cruelty, and tuning my ear to injustice. He has been teaching me the beauty of humility, the necessity of limitations, the peace of a quiet life, and the pleasure of nurturing children.
Admittedly, He has allowed some hard breaks to draw my attention to my own pride, self-reliance, and guardedness. On top of that, He keeps bringing me to vistas in Scripture that elevate God so high it takes my breath away and shows me how very small I am, indeed.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:3–4).
It seems as if Jesus doesn’t want us to be “strong Christians”: He wants us to be “weak Christians,” people who acknowledge our finite humanity and wholly rely on Him. He wants us to be people who are not constantly pushing against our limitations but who receive our work from God with humility.