Finding True Strength with Gina Butz
When I was pregnant with our 2nd child, I prayed for a girl with red, curly hair. I got my wish, apart from the curls. Looking back, I see now I wanted so much more for her than that curly red hair.
I wanted her to live loved, to be confident in who she is, and to find her passion and live it well. I wanted her to love Jesus. I wanted her to be strong.
Even as she came into the world and grew, I was in a process myself of redefining what being a strong woman means.
Strong was a descriptor people had used for me all my life, but not necessarily in a healthy way. They meant, “put together” and “self-sufficient” and “emotionally tough.” Born of years of believing the lie that I am on my own, it was a front I developed to prove my worth.
That kind of strength is impressive, but it isn’t inviting. It made me unapproachable in a way I hated, but the thought of loosening my grip on that image was terrifying. Embracing weakness and mess felt too far in the other direction.
God began to speak to me about finding my identity not in outward strength, but in my position as His child. As I did, I felt my view of strength shift. I believe now that true strength lies in owning our weakness, in being vulnerable enough to let others into our messy places. Weathering trials instead of avoiding them becomes fodder to strengthen us. And true strength is found in being our real selves, and in standing firm in our value as image bearers.
So I have tried to raise my daughter to be strong first by showing her that I am not as strong as she thinks, at least as the world defines it. There’s something heady about presenting an image to our kids of parents who have all the answers, never fail, never doubt. I realized early on that I wanted my daughter to think well of me, but in doing so, she might not see the real me. It would set up a false image she could never attain. Because the truth is, I’m not a perfect mom. I will sin against her. Sometimes (a lot of the time) I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have the answers. I fail. I doubt.
I learned to ask her for forgiveness when I mess up. And when she fails, I remind her that we are both in need of grace. Together, we go to God for what we need. It takes strength to admit where we fail, and to lay ourselves bare for others to receive or not.
Sharing my insecurities with her not only shows her it’s ok to struggle, it gives her permission to share as well. Opening ourselves to others, to show them our tender places, is a great act of strength.
And when my daughter encounters pain, I am learning to let her experience it, rather than shelter her from it. I know how walking through trials has strengthened my character and my faith. I remind her of that when she wants to shy back from trying something out of fear of failure or embarrassment. Strength isn’t found in avoidance but in facing the storms with confidence that God will bring us through.
I’m teaching my daughter that strength is also found in knowing our own voices. It’s been the greatest joy for me to see this girl, who can so easily question the “rightness” of her voice, draw lines in the sand about who she is and what she wants. When she acquiesced to wearing a dress for Easter, but she insisted on pairing it with her mint green Keds, I celebrated. Deciding what is important to her and being true to herself translates to how she responds when the girls her age go in a direction she disagrees with. It takes strength to stand in who you are and what you believe when you feel like you’re swimming against the tide.
Finally, I hope my daughter knows that strength is not defined by her gender. When she laments that “girls have to do all the hard stuff, like get their periods and have the babies, and we are still viewed as less than boys,” I get the opportunity to tell her again that in God’s eyes, there is no lesser or weaker sex. She is an image bearer. That should cause her to carry her head high.
I want a daughter who has true strength-not a grit-your-teeth, bear-it-alone strength, but a humble, open, God-dependent strength. I want her to find it in owning her weakness, embracing vulnerability, and courageously facing whatever life brings, because she knows the One who carries her. I want her to stand in the strength that comes from knowing who she belongs to, and believing that everything about her is good and divinely inspired. That’s true strength.