Tough as Nails - Why you might be tough as nails in life

When You Must be Tough as Nails

There was a phrase that I needed but it was not coming to me. Don’t you hate that feeling?

A phrase had been running through my head for days and I could NOT remember where it was from… a movie? a song? Instead of being able to match it with something solid, the phrase seemed to float around in my head like a never ending breeze of swirling words.

Finally, I sent my sister, the queen of lyrics and lines, a voxer message for help.

But, she was struggling to pin it down as well.

I sat at my computer filling out paperwork and drinking more coffee than I needed that day while I continued to search my brain for the details of this phrase.

It came to me… wrapped in tinkling 80s music, a singing mouse and a very risky rat.

In that moment, I was a little girl again, putting a Psalty tape in our VHS player so my sisters and I could sing along with Charity Church Mouse.

Anyone with me?

As she was about to make a deal with a rat, she said the phrase that had been in my mind for days.

“You’ve got to be tough as nails or they’ll walk right over you.”

Tough as Nails - Why you might be tough as nails in life

Can you hear her squeaky mouse voice? I can. I sent my sister a victorious, “I beat you at this game!” voxer message and patted myself on the back for actually pinning the thought down with a place and a name.

Tough as nails.

The phrase first came to my memory a few weeks ago when Jeremy and I were having a conversation about women in ministry. Ladies, if you are a woman in ministry… a pastor, a missionary, a pastor’s wife, a missionary’s wife, a deacon’s wife… this is going to be painful to hear but you are going to know it is true.

The truth is that it is super easy… like crazy easy… to become hard in ministry. Hardhearted. Closed off. Shut down. A mask of a smile with lots of hurt inside. Easy to be tough as nails.

I saw it often stateside… I see it often in missions.

I watch the process unfold for myself and for other new Ms to the field.

For women in ministry, it can be hard to trust. Hard to make friends. Hard to break through the ice, get behind the mask and truly connect with others.

Women who are tough as nails, fearing the never-ending things that walk over them.

And as missionary women, the risk is higher. With stress, transition, unsafe conditions, culture shock, marriage stress, loss of family and friends… living overseas can create a hardness that is life-changing. The things that can “walk over us” are many, dangerous, overwhelming and destructive.

I’m reading Running on Empty by Barbara Bancroft and she calls it “a hard edge to our personalities”.

{click the link above and BUY THE BOOK. for you. for your pastor’s wife. for the next missionary who comes to your church. There is something to learn on every page}

Sadly, that hard edge is both realistic and somewhat necessary.

I’m a pretty soft person by nature so sensing the hard edge of those around me or seeing a hard edge form in my own personality is not a fun process.

In fact, feeling the pain of my fledgling hard edge hit the hard edge of others is exhausting. Especially while recognizing that most of the hardness is nearly unknown to all and not purposefully done… truly just a byproduct of our crazy lives.

Tough as Nails - Why you might be tough as nails in life

I have a post that I wrote about Ezekiel and how God actually told him, “Uh, buddy… I’m going to harden you. You are going to need it.” Ok, that is the Jenilee translation of what God said but if you’ve read the book of Ezekiel, the man did need a hard edge.

But me? You?

In some ways, yes… like Ezekiel, we need a hard edge. We go through difficult, tough, rocky, stressful days and a God-given barrier is a good thing. I’m learning that lesson in waves.

But, in other ways, we need our softness. We need our humanity and our weakness and our vulnerability to connect rightly and without abandon to those around us.

We need a real smile on our faces and a fresh joy in our hearts each and every day.

How do we come to this balance of hardness and softness?

1} Stay teachable. Being teachable enables the softness to always have a place in your heart. It reminds you that no matter how long you’ve been in ministry or how many years you’ve been on the field, you can still learn new things and you have not arrived. Staying teachable, whether you are a newbie or an oldie, means everyone can learn from each other and we all can contribute to life in ministry. It reminds us that we all have a place. We all are on a journey together, learning and growing at different rates and helping each other along the way. Stay teachable.

2} Be Ready. Stay in the word. Pray every day. Rest in His presence. Practice spiritual disciplines. Remain grounded in your relationship with Jesus. Abide in Him. Listen to Him and depend on His promises. Doing these things keeps us ready for whatever comes our way. Tragedy, trial, struggle, big success, hard-fought wins, monumental loss… being close to Jesus keeps you ready to face what comes each day without needing the protective hard gear we think we need to make it through the day.

3} Be Willing. Willing to talk out the hard stuff. Willing to hear truth. Willing to see things another way. Willing to dig down deep and make big changes. Willing to get out of your comfort zone and friend just one more person. Willing to respond to the hurts of those around you. Willing to be continually poured out and used for Kingdom purposes. Be willing to go farther, reach beyond and stay available.

4} Remain Open. Put down the mask, tear down walls, step into the light, relish the freedom to just be YOU. God chose you. He called you. He equipped you. He has great plans to use you. Keep your eyes and your heart open so you won’t miss what He is doing.

Tough as Nails - Why you might be tough as nails in life

5} Remember Compassion. Compassion for the newbie. Compassion for the oldie. Compassion for that church lady who completely misread your newsletter. Compassion for the pastor who asked for a last minute video. Compassion for the boutique guy who stole your wallet. Compassion for the taxi driver who purposefully hits every pot hole in the road. Compassion for the shepherd boys who keep their cattle in the road. Compassion for your kids who are sweaty and tired. Compassion for yourself, sweet friend. Remember compassion for yourself. You are loved. They are loved. We are all on the same team. and Grace. loads upon loads of grace.

I don’t know where you are with the whole “tough as nails” bit.

I don’t know what is walking all over you right now.

But I do know that a hard edge tends to come with the territory and it can dramatically effect all of life in ministry.

You might be just noticing a hardness forming to your personality.

Maybe like me, God is speaking to you about how He is preparing you through the hardening. That, somehow, He is using it all to keep us soft and pliable in His hands.

Maybe you absolutely know you have a hard edge and you are terrified at the thought of ever letting that go. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a hard edge… or two.

Why you might be tough as nails

I’m learning, that as with all things, there IS a balance between a God-made, healthy barrier and hardheartedness. I’m learning that softness isn’t bad or weak. Somehow, God uses both wrapped together to toughen us where needed and yet still preserve our precious heart of flesh.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Have you noticed a hard edge to your personality developing? Are you feeling soft and vulnerable and wishing for a protective barrier?

Where are you on the balance line between the two?

And, don’t forget… THIS book. Buy it for you and a friend.

More of my #behindtheprayercard story: End of Me and Real and Ugly




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