When I was little, I loved carrying “fragile” things. From porcelain cups to detailed cakes, whenever I was in charge of serving or giving these, I’d feel important and grown-up. The responsibility and trust that my amma placed in me would make me feel invincible yet cautious. Yet, many times, I’d drop the ball and break something that I was entrusted with.
My disappointment would be grave. I’d often be in tears and be upset with myself for ruining something beautiful. In fact, out of all my childhood memories, the ones of me ruining something are the ones that are still the most vivid.
I still feel that same disappointment. I feel it when I “ruin” myself. Every time I mess up, I feel like I have ruined myself. I feel like I have shattered myself to never be able to be built up again. Every failure seems an indication of a failed life. Every missed opportunity seems an indication of a life of missing out. Every mistake seems an indication of a life of mistakes.
So, I try to cope with the stress and my overwhelming emotions of fragility and brokenness in different ways. These often fail however as I rely on myself to fix my mistakes.
Coping Mechanism 1: Confidence – Fake Strength till you make Strength!
My first coping mechanism has been to exude confidence. I did it ever since I was little. It seems natural to me to just try to tell myself that I am strong and can do anything I set my mind to.
The problem with overconfidence is that it lacks true substance. Even if I end up confidently accomplishing some task and feeling less fragile, the second that I mess up any task eventually leads to immense disappointment. I can tell myself that I am strong as many times as I want but if I am not truly strong, then my overconfidence leads to failure and ultimately complete loss of confidence in myself. A cycle of confidence to failure can often form which has made this coping strategy ineffective for me.
Coping Mechanism 2: Working Hard – Make your own strength!
So, I turn outward. I decide to work until I am strong. But, the more I work hard, the more I am faced with my fragility.
It’s like this. I consider myself a relatively fit person. However, every time I start a new workout routine I am shocked by my weakness. I know that to truly be physically strong, I need to continue working out. But, to commit requires strength when I see just how much work it requires to get “fit”.
Where does that strength come from? When I work, I am disappointed by the need for more work. So, the strength to continue working and to continue making myself strong is missing. I feel hopeless.
Recently, I have been reading Jeremiah 19. It speaks of a potter’s vessel that God tells Jeremiah to use to make a point in verse 11.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. – Jeremiah 19:11
Reading those words is scary. It speaks of the ultimate hopelessness that a flask is shattered into a million pieces. We all know that it cannot be brought back together again. This would definitely be my worst fear. That, just like the people mentioned in Jeremiah who engage in harmful choices, that I will also make such a huge mistake that I will be hopelessly shattered. That my strength will not be enough.
However, another passage in the Bible shocked me with the parallels it has to this one.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
This is written right after talking about the truth of the gospel, the good news.
Both jars have been made and shaped by a potter. One, however, is ruined for eternity. The other is redeemed for eternity. That is the good news. My potter, my God, does not throw me down as a hopeless jar but rather shapes me as a jar of clay, a work in progress. How?
It’s all by God’s grace. He sees me while I am at work that seems, to me, to be going hopelessly out of shape. However, He sees me with different eyes. He sees me as perfect and as who I’m meant to be. He sees me as a beautiful jar of clay because He sees me as His own child. This grace of His to allow me to not be defined by my problems, but rather by Him and His redeeming plans is what gives me hope.
God’s grace isn’t fragile. It’s definite. It’s promised. It’s faithful. The exact opposite of how I feel. So, I start to slowly have hope and to leave this hopeless coping strategy behind.
Coping Mechanism 3: Accepting My Fragility – Find true strength!
My third coping mechanism is a work-in-progress to implement. This is simply because it requires me to start acting like a child again.
As a child, my fragility taught me dependence and humility. I’d have to rely on my parents to do so much for me. Every so often, I’d think that I knew what was best for me, but would almost always be wrong. So, I’d go back to my parents who would often show me love and forgiveness. They would teach me how to grow up.
Now, I’m proud to say that it’s been years since I’ve dropped something that was supposed to be served. My amma finally taught me to be careful in many ways. However, I still drop so many things in the grand scheme of life. My fragility sometimes feels like it is going to overwhelm me. I sometimes lose sight of my hope. However, in the end, the truth remains to give me strength.
We are fragile. God allows us to be so. Then, we know that it is His power, grace, and love that holds us together. Then, we can trust in Him and His faithfulness. Only then, through His grace, can we truly be strong no matter the fragility of our own selves.