Thump. From above, the loud crash reverberating from the second floor could be heard over the low hum of conversation in the main-floor living room. Smiling nonchalantly, my husband and I continued to converse pleasantly with new friends from church.
After a momentary pause, the mysterious thump was heard again. Pause. Thump. Pause. Thump.
Finally, one of the men looked at us. “Uh—what’s going on? What’s making that noise?”
“Oh, that?” we shrugged. “That’s Elise.”
Honestly, the fact that our toddler was leaping from a dresser to the floor was, at this point, no big deal. This was the child who scrambled out of her crib before she could talk, the one who swung from the curtains until they crashed to the floor, the one who climbed the bookcase until it ripped out of the drywall. This was the child that required the use of a lock on her closet after she scrambled up to the highest shelf, and who viewed escaping out of her bedroom as an Olympic event.
Life with Elise was an adventure, and a few extra jumps at bedtime were par for the course.
But my laissez faire attitude that evening wasn’t the response I had always had. When I was pregnant, I remember having dreams about what my child might be like. I hoped he or she would like books—like me—and that they would love Jesus and love others. I don’t think I had anything else on my “list,” which is probably why God laughed when he sent an active, outgoing, expressive child my way.
When you have a child, you quickly realize that they are fully yours and yet uniquely their own person.
While you can modify behavior or steer them toward a good path, ultimately their life is their own. That’s both terrifying and exhilarating. And so I found myself, as a young mother, completely overwhelmed at the prospect of parenting a child who seemed so different from me. I loved her, but I felt embarrassed and overwhelmed when she acted certain ways, did certain things. I’d like to think that I’m a strong person, but I felt keenly my weakness in the face of her own strong will.
The funny thing about weaknesses is that it is in those moments that we experience most profoundly the power of God. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT):
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
For too many years, I misread that. I assumed that when I am weak, he is strong. And that’s true—the power of Christ works best in weakness—but it’s awe-inspiring that the very thing that makes us weak, also makes us strong.
Read it again: For when I am weak, then I am strong.
And so we find our hope—not in pretending we never find ourselves sobbing inconsolably or locked in a bathroom with our own anger. Not in ignoring our fears and frustrations, wondering if we’re the only one who can’t figure out how to parent a precocious child.
No, our strength comes in admitting that we don’t have all the answers—but we know the one who does. We can stand firm in the security found in the faithfulness of God. When we are weak, we are strong.
The great thing about God is that he loves to surprise us. You know what I love best about Elise? She’s smart and funny and creative, but my favorite characteristic is that she really does love well, just as I imagined she would. (She likes books, too, but that’s just a bonus.) God really did give me the items on my list—and then he improved it.