Strong Enough to Say I Need You

I overheard a conversation in a bookstore about how someone was “so sick of those stories about girls who are just waiting to be rescued.” (Side Note: Seriously, when was the last time you read one of those stories? I’m pretty sure they’ve died out over the last thirty years or so. But I digress…) So, the woman at the desk recommended a book with a strong, female character who is a real inspiration. And when she announced the title, I nearly gagged.

Why? Because I read the book, and the only thing the main character inspired in me was a few negative feelings. So why did I bother finishing the book? Now, that’s a fair question I’ve even asked myself a few times. I guess I was hoping this bitter, sadistic character would transform into the heroine the reviews promised me.

There was enough back story for me to understand her lone ranger mentality, so I was waiting for her to overcome it. And I waited and waited and waited for nearly 500 pages. What a letdown. It reminded me of the humorous quote from the movie Picture Perfect:  “Her character never grows, Alan. I need growth!”

I have a hard time understanding why anyone would sing the praises of a character who is broken and bitter and trusts no one but herself. That’s not strength; that’s arrogance.

Want to meet a strong character? Watch a wallflower become a queen in Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns. Follow her through The Crown of Embers where our once-timid, uncertain heroine makes the strongest declaration of all. There comes a scene when she looks into the eyes of the man who has been her strength while she has yet to find her own and says, “What I did was weak. Cowardly. Unqueenly… and you were right. About everything. I do have power. Enough that I don’t need you. But I will miss you awfully.”

And. My. Heart. Melts.

Because strength is not believing you can take on the world by yourself; strength is realizing you are capable, but admitting your dependence on someone else.

I believe there’s a lot to be learned in the crafting of novels (because if I didn’t, the last year of my life would be a total waste). As I read and research and discover what creates a strong, female character—as I mold my Genevieve into someone whom I hope is both believable and inspiring—I’m learning to become that kind of character myself. I’m learning to say, “Hey, you know, I was wrong and, um, I need you.”

Yeah, I’m still working on the delivery. Because it’s amazing how such simple words can be your undoing.

But I want to be strong enough to say that I need you. Strong enough to admit that I was wrong. Strong enough to know what I am capable of on my own… and choose not to do it on my own after all.

I want to be strong enough to depend on someone other than myself. Strong enough to trust another human being with the fragile pieces of my heart.

I want to be strong enough to grow—because we all need growth—no matter how painful and difficult and terrifying that growth may be.

I want to be strong enough. Just strong enough…

And so I set out on this journey of becoming.

Strong Enough

Growing Pains

“The prerequisites for growth,” Bruce Mau said, are “the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.” Perhaps that is why so many of us reach a point where we simply stop growing. It’s not easy to let an event change us from the inside out.

Or perhaps we simply reach that place where our bodies have ceased growing and we think maybe the rest of us has grown up as well. Now there’s a laughable thought.

I’ve said before that I’m the kind of girl who always had a plan. I always imagined I had my life figured out. I always thought I knew exactly what I wanted. Maybe that’s why I stopped growing. Maybe when I reached that place where my mornings were devoted to my writing, I thought I had finally arrived.

Because this is what I wanted. And even though I knew there was always room for growth, I had let myself believe it could only be the small stuff from here on out. I was settled. I was certain. I was in that dangerously comfortable place… until God reminded me of how often I’m more like a three-year-old girl in her pink tutu and plastic tiara, claiming that I’m going to be a princess when I grow up (which I don’t think I ever actually said growing up, but the principle remains and you know that every three-year-old girl has thought it).

“Darling,” God whispered, “you’re still growing. You’re still in the stages of becoming and discovering and finding it’s not always so easy to stand with your head held high.”

The past few weeks, God and I have been discussing my flaws and, let me tell you, there’s a reason they call them growing pains instead of growing pleasures. I’m learning that there is a price to pay for the joy of becoming. Slowly but surely, I’m accepting the pain for the blessing it truly is.

And if you’re finding it hard to move past the growing pains, just remember that those sharp pangs in your ankles rendering it hard to walk right now are going to make you a little more surefooted in the future. The spasms shooting up your arms are making you strong enough to carry the loads you were never able to shoulder in the past.

Because Little One, Little One, you were made for so much more… You were meant to be so much bigger. You were created for greater things.

But you’re still growing. And it still hurts, though sometimes it’s glorious to realize how tall you’re now standing. But you were made for greater heights than this. For longer reach. So don’t you dare become content to stay just as you are. Because you’re still growing. And yes, it’s a painfully glorious thing.