Middle school. A place where girls and boys shoot into young adulthood, catapulted by hormones and peer pressure to just fit in. Be able to spin through the locker combination with ease and swag, flinging wide the banging metal door that says, "I have arrived." I'm here. Maybe they gained a few inches in height, with arms and legs a bit more rounder and stronger to match their stature, confidently strolling through the halls, despite quiet quivering fears of the great unknown. Or maybe they wearily straggled through the front doors adorned with bold school colors, still feeling like the kid from last year they still mostly resemble. Their frame is still small. Their arms and legs haven't gained any circumference, and whatever muscle they have seems to be invisible. But the single unspoken thought that unites all middle-schoolers, at least on the first day of 6th grade, is, "Am I good enough?" Similar thoughts creep in behind the first, "Am I smart enough? Cool enough? Tall enough?" As monstrous 7th and 8th graders pass by, another frightening thought whispers softly, "What if I'm not strong enough?"
Strong enough to stand up for myself.
Strong enough to open my locker by myself.
Strong enough to finish P.E. activities.
Strong enough to focus hard enough.
Strong enough not to cry. Not to show weakness.
Because the question of strength isn't always answered by muscle. Nor is it answered in mental or cognitive ability. Or swagger. Or emotions. Or physical stature and ability.
The question of strength is answered in the knees. In the bowing of the head and heart, in the bending of knees to sharp pebbles of gravel stained with tears. It's answered in the depths of the soul acknowledging its own weakness. And it is confirmed by the strong arm of the Almighty.
The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; Deut. 33:27
You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm. Psalm 89:10
My arm also will strengthen him. Psalm 89:21
With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever. Psalm 136:21
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Dear child upcoming middle-schooler, riddled with angst and fear, it's okay to be weak. It's okay not to be the tallest or strongest. I see your heart, and it is strong. It is strong because of the omnipotent God who made His home inside your gentle frame. It is strong because you know you're not. For when you are weak, then you are strong.
Dear parent, riddled with angst and fear, it's okay to be weak. It's okay to wonder if he's going to make it on his own. But if he does, it won't be because he was on his own. He's never alone. She's never outside of reach. "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save;" Isaiah 59:1 Notice this isn't a question. It's a statement. It's a fact. (And you can be sure of it because it's prefaced with the word, "behold." No one says, "Behold!" without something to really show for it!) Our children are safely kept in the palm of His hand. And so are we.
Worries and fear will come. Hurt and frustrations and tears may be unwelcome after-school guests. And you may feel helpless. Powerless. Weak.
Let weakness overtake your knees, and fall into the strong arms of the Lord who has never left you—or your child's—side. Who has calmed your anxious mind in the dark. Who calls to you in the morning sun and sings a song of delight over you through the leaves of the branches swaying in the breeze. Fall into Him. Fall into grace.
So go ahead. Ask the hard questions. Ask all the what if's you want. Then listen, and rest in God's answer to you:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Not strong enough? No. We're not.
But God is.