One of the most clever movies in recent years has to be the 1997 film Men in Black. In an interesting combination of comedy and suspense – the movie tells the story of the secret government agency that monitors alien activity on earth. As the movie begins Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, decides to recruit Will Smith’s character to serve in the MIB. After explaining everything to him, Jones leaves Smith for an evening to consider the offer. As he’s walking away, Smith asks him if doing the job, if making the sacrifices was worth it. Jones’s answer is simple, but telling…
“Oh yeah, it’s worth it. If you’re strong enough.”
Are you strong enough? For most people those are “fightin’ words,” the kind of thing that will make you puff out your chest, put up your dukes and take on all comers who would dare stand in your way. What is it about that question that raises such ire? Is it the challenge, or is it the realization that we may have weaknesses that we are actually working very hard to hide. We like to be the strong man at the gym. We want to show the boss that a woman can do anything a man can do. These shows of strength happen every day on the surface, but imagine if the search for strength takes you deeper into your personality, deeper into your spirit, perhaps you cringe at a more pointed question:
You’ve shown your weakness through strength, but are you strong enough to be vulnerable?
This statement seems to be contradictory, or at the least hold a very strange irony. But the more I consider it, the more truth I see within it. Don’t believe me? Consider this…
Think about the young child who turns to bullying. The most common psychological reason for bullying is insecurity. The child feels that he or she will be shown to be a fake, a phony, someone with faults, flaws, and shortcomings. Unwilling to let the world see these things, they resort to bullying other children. By showing their strength, power and toughness, they feel they are overcoming their fears and failures. Actually, they are merely hiding them, along with themselves, in the bravado of being tough. As we mature we stop bullying, but the behaviors can continue. Ever notice how people bury themselves in work, in hobbies, in busyness to avoid coming to grips with their true feelings? Men are told they are unable to cry, to feel the full emotion of what they’re going through. Women are inspired by stories in novels and on TV of other strong women who pull themselves up and overcome their hurts through simply burying them behind a façade of strength. We think that spiritual wounds will heal, just like a physical wound – slap a bandage on it, cover it up, and move on without giving it another thought.
Of course, this simply is not true. Spiritual wounds are more like the leaky window in your house. Simply pulling the blinds and ignoring the problem will not solve it. In fact, by waiting the problem only grows larger, does more damage and becomes more difficult and costly to fix. At the first sign of a leak, we should begin to take steps to fix it in order to limit the short and long term damage. That’s easy to say when it comes to home improvement, but far more challenging when the improvement project is our own life. Some problems are big, requiring major renovations that entail a substantial amount of time, effort and cost. Some problems are long lasting – things that we have lived with for so long that we’ve grown pretty comfortable at managing the problem instead of solving it. Some problems are painful. They hurt to the point where our minds and bodies simply block them out, providing us with the safe haven of avoidance. Some problems are combinations of all three – an emotional “perfect storm.” It scares us, freezes us in our tracks and prevents us from taking the simple steps of seeking help to deal with and truly overcome the hurts that plague our daily lives. So out of fear – fear of pain, of guilt, of exposure, of facing past demons, or of letting others see us broken down in our weakness, we hide these things in a shell of strength that belies our hurts but keeps the meddlesome do-gooders away.
Thankfully, there is a solution to these problems. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been restored to a place where we can call on the Father to lead us to the help we need to overcome. God leads us to other faith-filled people whose love and compassion for God overflows into their lives, their ministries, and their relationships. Isaiah 53:5 reminds us that we were healed “by His wounds.” This healing is not limited to forgiveness of our sins, but it wipes the slate clean. Lies, reckless decisions, deflated self-value, even anger and apathy toward God Himself can be forgiven and cast away. We are not slaves to these things. Our futures are not limited by them. Our hope is not lost. But to experience the fullness of what God wants to do in our lives, we must open ourselves up to Him – to be vulnerable so that His strength can be made perfect in our weakness.
Put down your guards. Let go of your defenses and let the power of God provide for you the healing you need. It is through Him where the light meets the dark and our strength can align with His strength to provide victory, peace, and the future God has promised us.