Today, I finally learned why I should accept a compliment I've been hearing for years and have never been comfortable with.
It probably won't surprise you that one of the most common things I hear from people in regards to whatever health struggle I am facing at the time is about how "strong" I am. Matt has told me I'm the strongest person he knows for years. That is usually one of the first things out of my friends' mouths (or fingers, if we're talking online or via text, haha) when they're trying to make me feel better and encourage me. Holly tells me I'm strong. Professors tell me I'm strong. My church family has said it. Alex told me just this afternoon that "I'm stronger than 99.9% of the people he knows". A Reformation brother that I have barely spoken to reached out to me via Facebook tonight and, in the middle of his message, told me he admires my strength and determination.
They're everywhere. These people who see this strength in me, usually at times when it's the last thing I see in myself. And it's not just been recently. I've heard it for a while, and I never knew how to respond, so I basically would just shake my head, smile, and say, "Thank you, but I'm not strong. I'm not." long enough for the subject to change.
I mentioned it to Taylor once, that everyone sees strength in me but I don't see it in myself, and he said "Maybe you should take that as a sign." Recently, he told me that the reason that people see me as strong is because I am open about how weak I really am. I got what he was saying, but it just didn't stick.
I ended up in the ER today. Again. I had 3 seizures within about 10 minutes before Reformation even started. Long story short, still no answers other than the infection seems to be improving, and I am seeing my neurologist again next Wednesday the 30th, as well as having an ambulatory EEG. I spent several hours sitting in another dark, cold ER room texting with anyone who was available, and getting caught up in my own thoughts when no one responded. You'd think that after all the medical crises I've faced, that something as simple as an ER trip wouldn't scare me, but I'll be honest - I felt like I was breaking, especially when they surprisingly discharged me after talk of possibly admitting me, knowing that I was leaving yet again without any substantial answers.
Pastor Chris called me while I was on the way back to campus. We briefly spoke, and he told me to look up this song on YouTube and then call him back. My phone was almost dead, so I told him I would do it when I got back to my room. This would be the song.
"Lord, I Need You" by Matt Maher
Yeah...I called him back as soon as the video was over. Pretty much the first thing he asked was, "So what did you think of the song?" And I said, "Uh...that's the cry of my heart right now."
And we got to talking about exactly what I've been talking about in this post - the fact that seemingly everyone I know thinks I'm strong while I think that I'm breaking on the inside and I just don't let anyone see it.
Then, he started telling me stories. Stories about people he knew from various places all who ended up with the same way...killing themselves. And with every story, he finished by saying, "That's why you're strong." He ended by finally explaining the reason that other people see my strength when I don't in a way that it actually made sense to me.
I'm strong because I don't give up.
I'm strong because I'm the first to admit that I can't do this on my own.
I'm strong because I don't stop clinging to Jesus.
I'm strong because I don't stop crying "Lord, I NEED You."
I don't write this to make you think I'm bragging. I'm writing this because I need to pound it into my own head more than anything. I've never been great at taking compliments from others, but this is one I need to accept and understand and be grateful for. Because for every time someone tells me that I am strong, I have a chance to tell them about the God that gives me the strength that they see. Every bit of the good you see in me is what He has done in me and for me in some very dark days.
I finally get it now. And I'm actually okay with it.