I crumpled on the floor and felt the deep sobs well up in my chest.
Unable to control them, I surrendered to sorrow and let the grief pour out. The exhaustion of my failure, the feelings of helplessness, the sickening feeling of death, and the loss of hope. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows wrapped into three weeks of life lived had me on my knees weeping uncontrollably.
As I emptied my soul of emotion, my sweet roommate came in, lowered himself to the floor, and sat with me. I recounted what I could recall of the previous confusing heartbreaking conversation and tried to make sense of a senseless circumstance.
Moments passed and unknowingly he gave me the word I have heard lately in various aspects of my life: strong. Just over a month ago, my sweet community group affirmed my strength. A word I would never use to describe myself. They affirmed my resilience and tenacity and ability to fight through. My roommate then spoke these same words, as did my brother, my best friend, and a host of others.
Strong, Rach, Strong. This is the year you will come into your strength, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and relationally.
I heard Jesus whisper those words to my very tender, very vulnerable heart. Who I am and the way I live my life often feels like a chaotic mess. I love deeply and passionately, often without expectation or requirement. I try to love the way Jesus loves. My body shows scars of the years of rejection and illness and pain. I am physically the weakest I have been in my life, barring my initial onset of Fibromyalgia. The last word I would use to describe myself is strong.
Yet, I keep showing up. I keep standing in the ring and coming out of the corner and getting my ass handed to me by love. And this time, as this man I cared for deeply handed my heart back to me, it felt like the final blow. The scene in the movies where the underdog gets their lights punched out. They see stars and fall down in slow motion as their head swivels and you watch the light leave their eyes. Their face hits the ground with a sickening thud and the crowd goes silent. Get up you beg get up and fight! But there is a tiny bit of relief to be on the ground. Everything aches and the darkness creeps in, begging you to surrender. 3….2…..1…. the desire to tap out, to lay there defeated is overwhelming. You know that if you just take the breath and let them win, this will all be over.
And then you exhale. And you hear the crowd. And when you open your eyes, your coach has locked his gaze to your gaze, telling you this fight is not over. You have more to give. You can catch the opponent off-guard by standing up.
So I guess this is where I’m ending 2017. Those moments between surrendering to the loss and digging deep to stand up. Jesus has told me I am strong. This is never the word I would use to describe who I am, but I believe who Jesus says I am. And so, this new year I vow to come into the fullness of my strength. There will be no shortage of experiences to learn from: the TV show our family will be on, to the new master’s program I’m starting, to the man who I still feel strongly for, to the body I must teach to find it’s strength again, and the disciplines I must engage in. There will be plenty of chances to lean into the strength. To stand up and fight. To get back in the ring and offer all of who I am, without reservation and without expectation and without fear.
Because I choose to live the big story.
Will you live it with me?