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Being "the strong one"

Paul writes: "A final word: Be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power."
Want to know the scripture reference? Ephesians 6:10. The beginning of Paul's admonition to put on the full armor of God. When I studied the armor in depth in the spring, I missed the importance of this verse. In fact, I jumped right into verse 11 and never looked back.

But this fall, in re-visiting this passage for a Bible study I'm in, I realized how weighty these words are...and how directly they fall in line with my experience of childhood trauma.

I’ve always been known as “the strong one”. For awhile, I took pride in that title. But, after my brother died, I started to resent it...there’s a lot of pressure to be the strong one, especially when it’s your own strength. But, that’s who people said I was, so, that’s who I needed to be. I was very practiced at it, and the world around me didn’t have a clue that there was NO WAY I was strong.  

For instance, when our daughter was 1, our family went through a very difficult time. At her routine, one-year check-up, lab results came back abnormal. In fact, her hemoglobin levels were so low that our pediatrician sent us to Wichita for immediate hospitalization and evaluation of our little girl. For the next 18 months, we went to specialist after specialist. She had labs done at least weekly. She had two transfusions and also underwent a growth hormone test, all before she turned two.

During those grueling months, my mama-heart turned into a warrior for my daughter. I spent HOURS researching. I learned quickly how to advocate on her behalf. I also pelted the doctors with lists of questions and ideas...in fact, one of our specialists told me he would hire me as a researcher!

But doing all that research helped me avoid thinking. Because underneath that tough exterior, I was absolutely paralyzed! I kept returning to the night my brother died, and the prayer I prayed...I stood looking out at the darkening sky and prayed that my brother would be found alive. He wasn’t. I always knew that God could do anything. But I never believed, especially after that, that He would do anything of importance for me.

Our journey with our daughter made me so fearful that God was going to take her away from me, too. I knew I SHOULD be confident in God. I had people telling me to have faith. People shared Bible verses with me and said they were praying for us. Church leaders came to our home and conducted a healing service. With that healing service, I was praying for and expected a miracle. I was trying to have the faith people told me to have. Instead our precious girl caught a cold and her surgery was delayed for a month. My faith took a huge blow in that moment, and I stopped praying seriously for medical issues. I knew God could, but I didn’t believe He would.

The support our family received was meant to be helpful, but really, it crushed me. And even after her diagnosis of hereditary spherocytosis and a successful surgery when she was 2.5, I continued to have trust issues (always rooted in abandonment), but this time with God...This is how I looked at it: He allowed so many bad things to happen in my life, and hardly a whisper of trouble for other people...and it just wasn’t fair. I knew I SHOULDN’T feel that way. And I SHOULDN’T compare myself to anyone else. But just because I shouldn’t believe something, didn’t mean those feelings went away.

Christian brain scientist, Caroline Leaf’s, explanation about the way the brain is designed really helped me understand this. She says, “You can be presented with all the reason, logic, scientific evidence, and just plain common sense in the world, but you won’t believe something is true unless your brain’s limbic system--the central location of your emotions--allows you to feel that it is true. So you can’t imagine and feel--change your brain structurally--one way and speak something different, because if you do, there will be a lack of integrity operating in the brain, which will leave an overwhelming feeling of being out of control.”

In other words, building on a faulty foundation won’t bring peace. Instead, a faulty foundation doesn’t support the weight it is supposed to carry, and falls down when trouble comes. Being the "strong one" was putting me on shaky ground, and yet I continued to build on it. I continued to believe in and claim Jesus, and yet, I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel joy in my life. Turns out, my grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it attitude wasn’t REAL strength.

The strength I NEEDED was in the LORD and in HIS mighty power!

In a study guide of Ephesians 6 by David Guzik, he writes this:

One thing I have come to recognize in myself and others walking a similar road is the desire to appear strong. (I definitely don't believe this is limited to childhood trauma, but that's a topic for another day!)

But appearing strong doesn't stand under pressure. Just like a soldier who hasn't trained is ineffective, so is the Christian who hasn't allowed God to seep into his/her through and through. And too often for the childhood trauma victim, it is hard to trust anywhere outside of yourself. Especially God. I've been there. I KNOW! And in my journey to get healthy, it was one of the biggest battles I faced. To realize that even though I didn't cause the hard situations in my life...I WAS stunting my growth and my faith by not facing the past head on and allowing God to completely cover and sanctify me through and through.

It's my prayer that as you think about the healing process, you will allow God to permeate your very insides...those very parts that are painful to touch, painful to admit, and painful to face. He wants it! Please, let Him have it! Let Him strengthen your spiritual core so you are equipped to stand. 

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 5:23)

This is part of a series called deep to DEEP, a write 31 days challenge. For more posts in this series, click the image below:


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