This Is Only a Test

We are only as strong as the circumstances that require our strength.

#1113, c. 1867

There is strength in proving that it can be borne
Although it tear —
What are the sinews of such cordage for
Except to bear
The ship might be of satin had it not too fight —
To walk on seas requires cedar Feet

Emily says that it is even a virtue to be broken by the things that are too much for our strength. We have to find that outer boundary of our tolerance for pain in order to know our true capacity for anything, whether pain or . . . something else. Building? Caring? Nurturing? Living. She asks why did we receive any of our gifts if not to have them threatened. You can’t know the value of something until you have to fight to keep it. The pressure to defend what you love shows you the depth and the quality of your love.

How many marriages have failed because one or both people involved found it not worth fighting to keep? That is the saddest moment of all, when one lets go of the other. This act announces: My love was present for you before this test. Now it has dissolved because I do not cherish this love enough to bear the passage through this difficulty. The cords that bind are not outside but within. In this dissolution, the urge to avoid the test or the pain of being tested, exposes the weaknesses of those inner bonds.

When one turns away from a test, it is because the prize on the other end is not worth it. Or not visible. Maybe one does not believe in one’s own strength to pass the test. The prospect of breaking while being tested is too terrifying. Sometimes we’d rather do without whatever might (or might not) be on the other side of the test.

Emily says: No, we are given all these treasures specifically to be tested. No one ever gets to enjoy a smooth ride on a ship of satin without some fight or some conflict. If you want a life free of conflict, you’ll bob along in a paper dinghy. No one will see you or bother you. Possessing a grand ship (grand spirit or grand vision) guarantees that you will encounter resistance, and you will have to demonstrate your strength to yourself. To grasp the value of what you possess.

The last line, “To walk on seas requires cedar Feet” points to Christ walking on water. None of us can do this. None of us has feet made of porous, floaty wood. We don’t have His magical powers. Our feet are made of clay. I hear Emily’s point as, “None of us are getting out of this alive.” No one will get out of any situation by sprouting miraculous cedar feet. We will have to proceed through each test in our path, each test that living on this plain earth gives. We have no other choice but to place our strength against others to see where we are in the continuum. Not only to see what strength we possess, but also to see who may be strong enough to bear the pain of being human along side us. These tests show us who can stick with us through the worst, as well as the best.

This is how you learn if your ship is seaworthy.

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