I've spent the last few days thinking about strength. And trees. And determination. It's been an interesting revelation for me. My life seems to go by unit studies, but the unit study in my life is rarely about the life cycle of plants or the letter A. My unit studies are more often titled, "The Difference Between Love and Enabling," and "God's Parenting: Responsibility vs. Blame." Well, the unit study in my life this past week would be entitled, "The Oak and the Currant Bush: Strong Trees Still Grow."
My favorite poem, The Oak Tree by Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr. has come to the forefront of my mind a lot in recent days. And every time it does, I hear my good friend Missy's response when I shared it with her. She told me that I was the oak tree. I guess it stuck with me because although I've always admired the tree in the poem and wished I was strong enough to say bring it on, I never really thought I was. I don't think I believed her when she told me, either. So, as the poem kept coming to mind, and as Missy's words were right there with it in my brain, I asked myself why it was such an anomaly to me. And I realized, strength isn't in withstanding the storms. Strength is GROWING IN THE STORMS. In all the pain and suffering I've been through, I've never said "Bring it on!" I've been too busy saying, "Ow, this hurts!"
And then I thought of another favorite anecdote. I first came across the story of the Currant Bush in Seminary. I remember Brother W., with tears in his eyes, looking at all of the students and saying, "It will hurt now, but you will be so much better for it." It will hurt now. And it does. But a true hero doesn't just stay a victim. A true hero doesn't cower from the pain. A true hero DOES something about it. I think that's been the final chapter in my unit study: What is a hero.
I've been reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Thrift Editions) and reflecting on how all the great men in history stood up. The only reason we know who they are is that they were willing to change the system. I have been asking myself if I'd ever be willing to do that. And I still don't know. But I do know one thing: In The Avengers, there is one moment I knew where I stood. Loki, the super-villain is preaching to a cowering crowd about how mankind liked to be ruled, how mankind was a coward. And there was one man that stood up. One person in a crowd full of people. And I knew, if it ever came down to it, I would be that one person. I would stand up and say, "No. This is not acceptable, and I will stand." That man knew he'd probably die for his actions, but he did it anyway. And so have all of the great names in history. They knew the risks, and they did it anyway.