“You’re gonna be so strong after this thing, honey,” her eyes were locked on mine. Her heavy hands giving my shoulder an affirming shake.
“How strong does someone need to be?” I asked. I don’t think I want…sob…I don’t think I want to be…sob…that…sob…strong.
I was young.
I was wise!
You should not be as strong as I am.
I’m not talking about gains in the gym, I’m talking about lifting the crushing weight of hopelessness.
20 years ago today my parents, Lee and Jacque Cook were killed by an F7 tornado in Montgomery, Ohio.
I know. Ouch. So ouch.
At the time I received a LOT of help, so help people with their “ouches” now.
My friend was right, I became “so strong through this” but I’m still no convinced that is a good thing. It’s been suggested that my strength is often detrimental and creates imbalances in life. I bet that’s true.
It’s fake news.
I’m not strong. I am carried by the King and He strengthens me.
If all of a sudden you’re like…ope…I’m out.
And speaking of peace…Jesus…He gets a crummy wrap sometimes, but He is actually known as the Prince of Peace. 20 years ago today, I became a witness. I know that heaven fell on me like honey from a comb and once I get a taste, I was like freaking Pooh Bear.
20 years ago, I was walking around the wreckage where my family and house used to be.
And I was looking to two things a)treasures-anything that proved we existed and b)answers-like why?
At the time, I believed in reincarnation. I thought that in each life we had a lesson to learn in order to progress forward and eventually attain Nirvana. I don’t really know what combination the “all you can eat buffet of faith”, I’d stacked on my plate to think that way. But…there it is. I wandered the ground asking “why, God” and “what are you trying to teach me” as my born-again brother was on the t.v. news saying stuff like “God is so faithful. He’s so good. He took them together. They would not have wanted it any other way.”
I was entirely carried by friends, civic and church people who I didn’t know. You can read the whole story in my book The Healing Season: How a Deadly Tornado Wrecked and Reshaped My Faith. It’s everywhere books are sold (and there’s a small group DVD and audio book, too)
I was not strong. I was carried. I was weak. The community was strong and carried me.
I “have some “strength”. I may even be strong.Or, maybe I’m weak and trying to keep you at arms length by flexing mine. I’m in therapy for my “strong ” because like I said, it’s fake news. I am needy. I need my friends, family, church, counselor. I need my workouts (but to burn off the crazy as much as build muscle).
For at least 20 years I wore I black pleather jacket. It was bad to the bone and looked killer on me.
But but God is doing a new thing. Think about it: do the words “bad to the bone and killer” best describe who I am and who I want to be?
I threw the jacket away. It does not make anyone think I’m tough. It’s not going to stop someone from mugging me (or worse).
I am covered by the King and clothed in His mercy and grace.
I know…so much Christianeese.
But, dude, it’s Him. He’s my strength. He carried me then and now and always. And that’s enough for me. My God strength is my good strength. Not my real strength. Not my black pleather jacket. My Jesus.
So, 20 years now.
20-years with a yucky title, I didn’t pick “orphan”or want “tornado girl.”
We all have those, right? “Divorced guy” “Cancer mom” “Unemployed boy”.
Is there anyone in your life saying, “this is going to make you so strong”…sure.
But I really hope it also makes you weak. Weak enough that you need someone and reach out and feel them clutch your hand.
We can’t do it alone.
We are not made to.
Plus those titles, “orphan” “looser” “failure” are also lies. I’m calling them out.
You are not those names. You are a God-breathed and divinely inspired movement of heaven on earth. Put that on your next job application! Right next to “emergency contact: Christ”. Like the t-shirt says, we need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. But we also need people. Not just our tribes either.
Part of my “so strong problem” is this lie: I don’t need anyone. I can do it myself.
Again, so much fake news.
We need each other and we are needed.
Taken to it’s natural extreme for this tornado girl looks like isolation that is justified by introversion, which is probably instigated by a scary freaking world where tornadoes kill parents and kids get shot at schools, and planes fly into buildings sometimes. Not always. Not usually. But sometimes. At the mall. Or movies. So maybe I’ll stay home.
But there’s a problem there.
It was not ME who held me up back then, it was YOU. It was them.
It was God (of course) and the community. I worry about the unity in commUNITY.
Today, 20 years later that worry is wasted energy.
I was not worried a tornado would come. And most of the “tornado” we worry about only swirl in our minds. But there is one who calms the storm and in our weakness, He is very strong.
Plus…biggest bonus prize ever, because of Him I know I for sure get to see Mom and Dad again. It’s a done deal and it’s makes me so bold in the soul I could trash talk a tornado: what you got windbag? It only LOOKS like you won.
But there I go, being strong again. Today, I’m being gentle with myself.
I’ll sit with a coffee, and blanket and dog. I choose the little way to remember: plant a flower, read devotions.
Maybe I’ll bake a cake (angel food, of course.) and share it with someone.
Shannyn Caldwell is a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of The Healing Season: Holistic Wellness Community.