When I was a little girl, my parents once took me to a circus. It was strange and wonderful. I was a bit mystified by some of the acts, the animals, and members of the circus family. Of particular interest was the “Strong man” who seemed able to leap buildings in a single bound’ if he chose to do so. He was not particularly large. But, wow, he was strong!
During my adolescence, there was a bit of a revolution going on with regard to women’s roles and men’s roles, along with their definitions. The meaning of strong’ seemed to get tossed about and modern demands created a shift in what was seen as strength’, courage’ and even morality’ or acceptable behaviors. While this was going on, it became more intriguing for those who tried to live strong, courageous lives of moral virtue. As the decades have passed, the divide between worldly acceptance and truth grows wider and wider.
This year’s theme for Young Women and Young Men is a treasure! “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9) What a beautiful focus for young people who must fend off offensive comments, pictures, and gestures on, perhaps, a daily basis… at school and in the community. It takes a lot of courage and strength to stand firm, and to take the hits of the friends’ who make fun of “old fashioned” values! It takes those same characteristics for any of us- regardless of age- to hold fast to the core values our Father in Heaven would have us retain.
Some of my writings and lectures have come under attack by those who take offense or find fault with topics that may range from prayer to repentance. It goes with the territory, but–let’s face it– heckling is never fun. And it is much tougher for young folks than old, seasoned’ ones like me! Yet, so many of our young folks are doing much more than hanging on… they are holding fast to truth and righteousness, showing a peculiar strength, courage and faith!
Since the time of my youth, there have been many moments when I wish I could stand on a soap box to shout my heartfelt feelings about scriptural definitions and principles, or times when I have shook my head with disgust or disappointment as the slippery slope of standards continued its downward plunge.
Along with this downward trend, strength and courage have been re-examined, it seems. Some have tossed the terms out altogether, while others have fit it to a new, politically correct blueprint. Meanwhile, the gospel principles continue, unfazed by the crazy phases of temporal trends; as unflappable as ever.
A beautiful poem I found the other day [with no author attached. If anyone knows who wrote it, please let me know so that I can give them due credit!] seems to encapsulate what a follower of Christ understands “strength” to be:
The Strength of a Man
The strength of a man isn’t seen in the width of his shoulders.
It’s seen in the width of his arms that circle you.
The strength of a man isn’t in the deep tone of his voice.
It’s in the gentle words he whispers.
The strength of a man isn’t how many buddies he has.
It’s how good a buddy he is with his kids.
The strength of a man isn’t in how respected he is at work.
It’s in how respected he is at home.
The strength of a man isn’t in how hard he hits.
It’s in how tender he touches.
The strength of a man isn’t in the hair on his chest.
It’s in his Heart…that lies within his chest.
The strength of a man isn’t how many women he’s loved.
It’s in how he can be true to one woman.
The strength of a man isn’t in the weight he can lift.
It’s in the burdens he can carry.
Our good youth are being taught about being strong in a world that, relative to moral and ethical values, is often wimping out! True strength teaches us, as the poem infers, that we need not be defeated nor steered off course by adversarial temptations or trials. Isn’t it helpful to know that when we seem to run out of strength of our own, the Lord will pick up the slack and carry our burdens for us?! The Lord, our God, is with us, helping us move forward so that we can recognize our own goodness!
A very short poem that speaks to “courage” is this one, written by Christopher Logue:
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
Come to the edge!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.
Our young people learn about flying, soaring, and overcoming the pitfalls of mortality by having courage like a young David of the scriptures, a Nephi who would not dishonor his parents on earth or in heaven, or a Rebekah who recognized, understood, and was willing to leave the familiarity of family and home to fulfill her role as wife to Isaac. Having courage to go to the edge – where our next step must be into darkness, trusting the Lord to tend us and guide us – seems a required course as we live in these last days.
Because of the good courage and the strength that comes from understanding things of eternal worth, our modern-day teenage heroes and heroines understand that they need not “… be discouraged at seemingly overwhelming odds in your desire to live and to help others live God’s commandments. At times it may seem like David trying to fight Goliath. But remember, David won.” [Elder David B. Haight [Ensign, November 1977.]
There is much required of all of us. But we can do it – each one of us – young and old. The magic ingredients? To be strong and of a good courage!