“Mariah Carey lied to us,” I said.
She looked at me quizzically.
“You know, that song she sang about being a hero.”
“I can be your hero, baby?” she asked.
There was a pause in the conversation as we both proceeded to hum I can be your hero baby, then tried to remember who sang it. (I Googled it later—it was Enrique Iglesias.)
“Not that one,” I said. “The one about you being your own hero. It says if you just look hard enough inside of yourself, you’ll find a hero. I mean, it’s a great song and all. But it’s not true. We can’t be our own heroes.”
We were sitting in a diner just after the sun came up. She had her hands wrapped around a coffee mug that was an exact replica of the one I drank out of countless times when I sat with my mother in the early morning hours. The diner served coffee out of totally random mugs. Mine was a freebie from some sort of medical office. The fact that hers was a carbon copy of my favorite mug from my mother’s cabinet gave me an indescribable feeling of comfort. It was a small but distinct reminder that God knows us personally and can orchestrate the most intricate details in our lives.
We didn’t know each other very well, but we were already talking as old friends. She’d asked me to meet with her because she was going through something unimaginably difficult. She was counting on something to change, and she’d just confessed that if things didn’t change, she wasn’t sure she had the strength to go on.
I empathized. And when I say I empathized, I don’t mean I nodded in understanding. I mean, I felt her pain—the real, raw pain of looking into the future and not knowing if you can physically withstand what you’re facing. I’ve felt like that before.
That’s how we got to talking about heroes. I reminded her that she wasn’t operating on her own strength to get through this unimaginably difficult thing. Her own strength wasn’t going to cut it. She needed to cling to something much larger than herself. She needed God to show up in a big way and be her hero. So we prayed, then and there, for God to do just that.
Her story is still unfolding, but I’ve had the joy of seeing her hero move a mountain for her already. I am hopefully expectant that He will continue to redeem her circumstances.
I’ve been thinking about our conversation a lot, and I keep thinking of it as I interact with all sorts of women in my life who are dealing with incredibly difficult things—women who are working the nightshift and being fully-engaged moms during the day; women who are fighting for their marriages and aren’t sure if there’s anything left to fight for; women who’ve been abused and abandoned and left to pick up the pieces; women who’ve been ripped apart by a painful loss but still go to work and drive soccer carpool like always; women who seem just fine on the outside, but are battling loneliness or anxiety or depression. I’ve been thinking about all of these women, who—if they’re being honest—probably have times when they feel like they don’t have the strength to go on; times when they just want to quit.
I’ve been wanting to sit down with each of these women and have a conversation with them. Because I think the woman who wants to quit desperately needs to hear something. So let me use this platform, today, to speak directly to the woman who wants to quit. Let’s have a pretend cup of coffee together so I can tell you these two things. (Hey, but if you want to have a real cup of coffee, you know where to find me!)
1. You’re not strong enough. I want to tell the woman who wants to quit that she needn’t struggle to be strong enough anymore. She needn’t try to be her own hero. Just so we’re clear, I’d say the same thing to the man who wants to quit. This isn’t a gender issue. It’s a human issue. This idea of needing strength outside of our own capacity is a very countercultural thing. We have this false sense of complete power and control over our environment. Maybe technology is feeding into this. I mean, according to a recent Hyundai commercial, you can literally unlock your car from space now. Admittedly, it’s pretty cool. But try stopping the wind and you’ll soon see there are limitations to what we can do with technology. The truth is, we aren’t all-powerful. When we find ourselves depleted of strength, we must look outside of ourselves. If I ran out of bread, I couldn’t find more bread by willing it to appear in my empty pantry. I’d need to go to the source. I’d need to run to the store and get more. (Or go outside and start harvesting wheat if I lived hundreds of years ago.) Speaking of living hundreds of years ago, here’s a very old writing that’s still highly relevant:
“As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me, You may hope and trust in me absolutely.”
– A Letter from Jesus Christ, written by John of Landsburg, a sixteenth-century monk
2. Your story matters. I want to tell the woman who wants to quit that her story, even right now in the messiest part, matters very much. My friend at the diner is a beautiful example of this. Even as she’s been waiting for things in her life to get better, she has said “yes” to serving and helping others. That’s how I met her, in fact. We were serving together. I was amazed at how much God used this woman, even while she was hurting, to reach others through a selfless act of service. Right now, she is reaching others just by allowing me to share this story with you. You don’t have to be whole to make a big impact. You just have to be willing. Remember that we serve a God who fed five thousand people out of one little boy’s willingness to offer up his lunch. A little goes a long way.
To the woman who wants to quit: please don’t. Your story matters, and it’s still unfolding. Look to God as your hero, and then look for Him in the everyday details, because He cares for you very much. Right down to your coffee mug.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalms 46:1
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:13