Back in the day, before I started my walk with Jesus, I was fearful. I used to be scared of most other kids. My time at school was mostly spent keeping a low profile so I wasn’t bullied. I hated school – the worst years of my life. I thought everyone was stronger than me because I wasn’t strong enough to fight back. I didn’t know why I was so fearful, I just was.
I eventually figured out where my fear came from. I could give you a total back story of how I had conditional self-esteem and how it was simply a generational misconception that was passed down. But that wouldn’t be the real story. The real story is how God’s perspective on true strength crushed the weight of the world, releasing me from all the lies that held down my soul. The real story is in the strength I now have in my identity, the strength that God’s love has given me.
The other day I proposed a question about strength and integrity to social media. I asked how strength could be affected if it had no integrity.
One response talked of a steel structure. The fact that you can see strength, and assume it, means nothing. The slightest imperfection within the manufacturing process of a steel beam can create a critical loss of integrity within the total structure. People are no different.
One of my most profound memories happened at work, about 10 or 11 years ago, when I knew nothing of God’s love. At this point, I was already well into developing a sense of identity through my success at work. Everything was fine on this day until I drilled a 130mm hole in the wrong spot. In fact, 200mm to the right of the right spot. Once I realised what I had done, I spiralled into a darkness of self-loathing. I was in tears within seconds. I sat there, looking at the hole and wondering what was the point if I couldn’t even drill a hole right. I suddenly thought of what everyone would think of me and the words they would fling at me.
As a new father, I now know the impact I can have on the type of strength my son will have in this life. I feel like I am critical to the manufacturing process of his soul and heart and identity. And I know God is the fire needed to fuel the passion that I want him to have in life; the sort of things I didn’t find out for myself until later in life. I don’t want my son to get his identity from me or the world; I want him to know who he is in God’s eyes.
Before I knew where I was with God, every bit of my strength came from what everyone gave to me. Opinion mattered. I spent my early teens and “adulthood” learning what the world wanted from me. I conformed so I could fit in. I grew up with drugs, alcohol, and porn. They became significant parts of my life. These are the worst places to find identity, absolute lies of the devil.
All of this was broken down and identified as false when I took God up on his offer. God promised eternal strength, unconditional love and pure integrity; things I hadn’t known on such a personal level.
As much as everyone around me could personify these things, not one person could give me value on such an unconditional and limitless level. Life, people, and the world are full of conditions. God loves us for nothing we’ve done. We do a great job of throwing it back in his face and calling it strength.
What is wrong with admitting you’re weak and need help? With telling the truth that you can’t do this alone? With asking God to help you be the person you know you can be?
I did all of this and survived. All those habits I had didn’t disappear on the day I asked God to fix it all. Not right away. The drugs fell away the fastest. The porn is all but beaten, bar an ever crumbling memory bank. Self-esteem is the hardest to give up. So much of my self-esteem is tied up in the wrong things. The difference is that I now have a dependable and unlimited foundation of strength in God and Jesus, with the understanding that the Holy Spirit gives.
This brings me to my second social media response: Strength and integrity, without each other, is artificial.
I love this because it hits like a brick wall. Without integrity, a person can fall for anything. No matter how strong a person, if they don’t know what they stand for, or believe in, or what gives their strength integrity, then they will crash and burn when life steam rolls right over them. Yup, been there too. Even after God changed my life.
A marriage that looks strong from the out side but is full of porn and alcoholism is not an honest marriage. A bodybuilder using steroids may be big and strong, but has no integrity of heart. A father that is admired by his colleges and friends for his apparent strength of character and work ethic, only to beat his wife or children behind closed doors is the epitome of weakness and heartbreak.
And this is where Jesus brings the Truth all over again:
“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”
See, you can go through life and pretend to be strong. Building a life on the shifting sand of the world’s lies. But when things get hard, you learn fast just how strong the world’s ideals are. You learn just how much strength it has given you and just how much it cares.
You see, integrity is meant to be applied, it doesn’t work without context. Marriage, a heart, love, words, strength. I used to think all I needed was to be strong. I didn’t even know what that meant until God made it clear to me that integrity was a better place to start.
I want to be a man of integrity. I want to be a man of strength. And I want to be strong enough to ask for help and weak enough to understand everyone has the same pain I do.
Real strength is about being able to look at yourself and knowing something isn’t right. Real strength is giving up the notion that you’re alone in life. Real strength is built on a foundation of integrity, love, compassion, and God’s reality. And doing what is right instead of what is easy.
I want this most for you, my son.