Ever sat in a group or talked with a friend and discover someone you thought had it all together… didn’t? That very thing happened recently in a writing group. One of the women asked the group to please pray for her upcoming speaking engagement. Believe it or not, she confided, I have intense social anxiety.
Our jaws dropped. Her? Struggle with social anxiety? But she’s a national bestselling author who speaks regularly all over the country!
Once the shock wore off, though, the invitation presented itself: where were each of us battling a fear, hidden struggles, weaknesses that we were sure, if people knew, would prove we’re the shams we all wonder if we are?
As each of us shared the insecurities, uncertainties, and plain old fear that we’re unqualified for our work or ministry, we found ourselves asking the unasked question:
Can we—as women, professionals. . . humans in general—be both weak and strong?
It came out in different ways:
- Is a life coach legit, even if she’s on antidepressants?
- Can a speaker be effective, even while suffering from paralyzing anxiety?
- Is a woman a good mother, even if her work requires sacrifices of time with her kids?
- Is someone a loving person, even if her marriage is struggling?
In those questions lives the surprising lie that keeps us struggling: we must be one or the other. We’re either this or that.
The first moment I stumbled on this lie was when I was six years old. My dad was home from work one day and I wanted to ride bikes together, but he’d noticed I couldn’t tell time on an analog clock. So we spent what felt like 3 hours (probably more like 30 minutes) practicing together until my legs ached and feet were numb and I felt like the stupidest kid ever.
I don’t remember if I ever got the clock concept that day, but I do remember walking out of that kitchen knowing my dad was disappointed.
Later on, as I talked and played with my toys and dolls, I remember deciding this: I either do it right, or I’m a failure. I either learn fast, or I’m not smart.
We all read that and think, “That’s not true!” . . . but then, don’t we live like it is anyway?
When we buy into this-or-that thinking about who we are, we can’t live free in our all-of-me realities.
The reality is this:
- God’s power can pour from our strengths and successes (see Psalm 18:33-35).
- God’s power can also pour from our weaknesses and struggles (see 2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
There is no either or about who we are. We are both, friend. (And probably different shades of both depending on the day, the moment, the time of the month!)
Fortunately the One who calls us never changes—God is always I AM. When we let go of the “which-am-I?” lie, we join him in the “just-as-I-am” truth. That’s where growth begins. That’s where us becoming more and more like Jesus can really happen. And that’s why we can value the vulnerability of not having to have it all together. . . why we can rest in our moments of being messy masterpieces.
So the next time that pesky “which am I: weak or strong?” question pops up, let’s answer with a resounding “Both!” and thank God that he’s shaping all of who we are into better and better expressions of his heart for the world.