We approached the century-old lighthouse on a fresh Spring day. The unpainted brick looked like a giant tree trunk amid the pines and old oaks. I waited with my three kids while my hubby signed the visitor’s log.
“Its bigger than I thought it would be,” a nervous tremor rippled though my 8 year old’s voice.
I had to agree, though I hadn’t really been thinking about it. My focus was on reigning in the kids and making sure no one went too crazy. I never expected that such a struggle waited up those iron spiral steps.
“Over 200 steps,” I heard someone murmur. I wasn’t worried even if my time on the elliptical had been sporadic lately. We started up the first section of steps, then the second and my daughter froze. I immediately recognized the stiff legs, crouched position and outstretched arms. Fear. I know it well. Compassion took over as I handed off my youngest child to my hubby and took my oldest under my arm. I wrapped my arm firmly around her waste and put her arm around mine.
“We are going to do this together, like a four legged person, right?”
She giggled. and together we went up one section, then another. We arrived at a half-circle landing and the world began to spin. I went down to one knee and took my daughter with me. I looked out of the small window, we were even with the tall trees outside and I began to panic a bit. My vision blurred and I breathed and tried to remember my anxiety coping techniques. A nervous giggle escaped and I looked at my daughter. I didn’t want fear to keep us down. “Let’s go up one more, OK?”
She giggled and nodded her head. So the scared, four-legged person got up and climbed another flight. Stop. Breathe. Sit. Decide to keep going.
Isn’t that life? Sometimes moving forward seems so difficult and we would never make it alone.
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
My daughter and I slowly climbed three-fourths of the way up the aging lighthouse. But the walls quite literally were closing in on us and I felt I couldn’t go on. I wanted to help her overcome her fear, but I struggled with my own. We agreed to start back down. After going down two flights, my girl wanted to try again to get to the top. I could have cried. I wanted so much for her to go to the top, but I didn’t think I could take her. I looked into her hopeful, blue eyes. “Let’s try,” I said.
Again, as one, we marched upward, back up the two flights we had just descended. My mind was screaming out for me to turn around, to go back down. I hated how my fear was holding me back. I wish I could say that I persevered and marched proudly to the top with my child. Just when I felt I had hit my limit, I caught sight of the rest of my family coming down toward us. My hubby easily agreed to take my brave girl to the top as I took my younger two kids down to the bottom.
I felt defeated and ashamed. But later, as I processed the event I realized that I had helped. Because of my own weakness I was able to have compassion and help my daughter to regain her bravery. She did make it to the top and overcame her fear completely. I had a hand in that. I didn’t take her all the way, but I walked with her when the fear shook her insides and stiffened her legs. In that moment, my weakness was also my strength. Jesus has often reminded me, as He did the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
If I had never struggled, I would have viewed my daughter’s struggle as incomprehensible and inconvenient, but because of my own struggles, understanding and compassion took over. In that, I can say with Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
I felt like a failure, but a familiar Voice whispered into my soul, you did persevere and you helped your daughter persevere. It was inglorious for me, but victorious, none the less.
Praying for you to be victorious, even when it doesn’t feel that way.