A web site on metal says this: "The term tensile strength refers to the amount of tensile (stretching) stress a material can withstand before breaking or failing."
This has been a beautiful day...great worship, an afternoon getting the house ready for the senior high youth group, a visit with a wonderful couple who are facing some challenges, and an evening on the patio watching the sun go down. Still, the last two weeks have been a pastoral whitewater trip: lots of rocks, churning water, and spray. You use your paddle, dig as hard as you can to get through one situation, and then the raft dips and you are into another rough stretch.
You get a call one night, and sit with a couple as they tell their children the marriage may be ending. That's how one week begins. It ends with an email from a friend whose marriage has just collapsed. In between is a friend's battle with cancer, a man in the community whose hidden addiction has suddenly come out in the open, a 80-year old whose 47-year old daughter is dying. This is "normal" stuff. People whose lives -their rafts- are hitting some large rocks. Everything normal is spun around. Maybe turned upside-down.
And there has been other stuff. Seems like every time I have turned around there has been someone who is upset with something we have done (or not done). These are people I love, and so their frustration...their sense that we should do ministry differently...hurts. I want everyone to be happy and yet sometimes they aren't. These hurting moments come at a time when the church is growing...when the vital signs are so strong in so many areas.
A friend told me, "Just keep praying. And leading. That's the only thing you can do."
So I have been thinking about tensil strength. It's the capacity of a material to bend...to handle stress...without breaking. Can the wings stretch enough to handle the added pressure when the jet runs into turbulence?
Tensil strength is an important quality in life. Some people have this way of "bouncing" back. Others hit turbulence and they come apart.
Women aren't -I know I'm going out on a limb here- very eager to show off their "stretch marks" to the world. I hear things advertised that are supposed to cover up those marks...make them disappear.
We tend to keep our psychological and emotional "stretch marks" hidden, don't we? Whether we are a teacher in a tough situation, or a social worker with an overwhelming caseload, or a doctor who spent half the night working to keep a patient alive and then was in the office for that first 8 o'clock appointment, or a business person trying to keep the doors open and the employees working for another month. We all have "whitewater" times. We all go through times when we are flying along and hit turbulence.
I don't know what keeps you going, but I would suggest prayer. And I would suggest remembering that you need to take good care of yourself... remember to walk away now and then. Take a breath. Focusing on today and letting tomorrow wait...can help.
Paul, in 2nd Corinthians 4:16, says he doesn't lose heart because he has confidence that the God who was able to raise Jesus Christ from the dead will also raise us up with Jesus.
You may be doing a good job of keeping your "stretch marks" hidden. Not letting people know about the rocks you have been hitting, the whitewater you have been paddling through, but God knows. You're not alone. Hang in there. Bend, flex, give, and keep coming back, okay?