I opened my Facebook account recently; delighted to find a message from a wonderful young woman, now in college, who has been an important part of my Girls’ Group, one of my actresses, and an active member of our youth group over the years. She is bright, articulate, creative, and studying to be a high school teacher—a career choice that will truly be a blessing to many students in the years to come.
Currently, she’s enrolled in a workshop at the state university where she is a student, and she wrote me with a question.
Her 9-week program deals with issues of body image and self-esteem. The young women taking the class will use the skills they learn to mentor younger teen girls in local high schools. Sounds like a great program, and I know without a doubt that this young woman will use the skills she learns to complement her already considerable compassion and concern for teens.
But, her question really stumped me. She was prompted to contact a woman in her life and to ask that woman to share her proudest, most powerful moment.
Powerful. Power. That word made me uncomfortable to a degree. It seemed so … showy. But there’s this part of me that rather liked the notion of showy. Like lots of people, I am attracted to the idea of being perceived as a powerful woman. Perhaps the word strong would be more palatable. But the word I was asked to consider was powerful.
Leon immediately suggested, “When you had Syndey,” and I truly wish I could say that was my most powerful moment. But I was lying on an operating table undergoing a just-about-emergency c-section, and while I was overcome, I’m not entirely sure I felt powerful. I felt … humbled.
Then I looked up the word. And powerful, power actually, is tied to having influence over others. And trust me, in that moment I was not influencing others. Syd was coming into the world, whether I wanted it or not. Not by my power at all, to be honest.
My mind raced. After all, I want to provide a meaningful, compelling response. I want to offer a response worthy of the respect this young woman has for me. I want to give a powerful, influencial response to the question about power.
I thought through the obvious moments. And in these instances, I would suggest that most of us are led to think about achievements. God has been good, and my life has had its share. Faced with this question, you might think of those moments when you impacted large groups of people; received accolades; engaged in charitable or humanitarian acts. But each and every idea that came to mind, I rejected. “Nope. Surely that couldn’t have been my most powerful moment.”
I panicked. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t immediately conceptualize that moment?” As a professed self-aware person, shouldn’t I just know that apex moment in my life?
But as the hours (and now days) passed, a common theme began to emerge; sifted through those recollections of obvious moments.
Powerful moments are more about the end result than the immediate impact. (And my apologies dear reader, but I am not ready to expose all of these on a blog, but here are a few.) Before I left the hospital with Sydney, for instance, Leon left the room to get the car. And Sydney and I had a quiet conversation. Promises were made. That was a powerful moment.
After Leon and I were married, my grandmother fell into her final illness. We were with her and a small group of family. There was absolutely nothing we could do to stop her leaving us. And yet, that moment has become a powerful moment.
Sitting on a mountainside with a weeping teenager; a scene that no one ever saw and a conversation about God and decisions that no one will ever hear. A powerful moment.
I hate to be clichéd, but I am wondering if maybe the more life you encounter (not necessarily years, mind you), the more you recognize that those moments that make you feel the most “powerful” are those where you define self, not those where others define you.
In my younger years, I am sure my response would have been quick and certain and would have involved some sort of accolade or praise; a cheering crowd or happy class of students or a recognition in front of my peers.
But I am realizing more and more that the moments that “make” me are much quieter. And interestingly, in the trusty dictionary, the first definition of power has nothing to do with control or influence. It’s this: the ability to produce an effect.
And when you produce effects, it can’t be all about you.
For several years, I had the joy and privilege to work on behalf of Christians teenagers as part of the National LCMS Youth Gathering. Over those 6 years, there were many on-stage, up-front moments. Lots of chances to feel proud and powerful, but the moment that stands out the most is a quiet one: Standing in the darkness in the mass event hall where 30,000 students watched the action on stage, while I simply stood and watched them. No one knew me (in fact, one youth leader asked me to step out of the way), but I knew them, and I knew the hundreds of hours of work that had impacted that moment. And I didn’t need anyone to tell me “great job.” It was powerful.
My most powerful moments are those when I understand my purpose, and am affirmed in the choices and direction of my life. Often, they are moments that are humbling, because at the very same moment that I feel “great”, I am also conscious of how small I really am in the “big picture.” I think this is a significant learning at this stage in my life.
You see, like many new moms, I think I am dancing with the inclination to make Sydney’s moments my powerful moments. They’re not. Those moments are hers. And it’s important for me to retain a sense of pride and purpose of self so that I can be a powerful, effective mom.
So. After all of this, what is my response to my dear friend: My most powerful moment have been those when I have been most aware of my own weakness. My most powerful moments, while maybe including affirmation and accolades, have also been accompanied by personal moments of taking in the significance of my own insignificance, which result in feelings of deep gratitude to my Heavenly Father who delights in me, strengthens, and equips me in all circumstances.
Maybe not the most powerful of answers, but I hope its message will suffice.