Tensile Strength Training

Tensile Strength Training

Letting Your Children Make You Strong

by Leslie Ludy | September 1, 2012

When our first child, Hudson, was born, Eric and I felt like we had been run over by a bus. Seriously. Hudson was an extremely high-maintenance baby – and he hardly ever slept. While other parents seemed to peacefully stroll through the mall or the park with their serene child asleep in the stroller, Hudson was wired for sound, wide awake, fidgeting, fussing, and wanting attention almost twenty-four hours a day. Other moms would brag about how their newborns slept peacefully for eight hours each night from the day they came home from the hospital. But Hudson had acid reflux, which would cause him to wake up screaming every thirty or forty minutes all night long. After about four months of this, I was at wit’s end. We had not gotten more than a couple hours of broken sleep each night since our new little blessing from heaven had arrived. We were trying to fulfill book deadlines and run our ministry, but we were so worn-down from the new adventure of parenting that we could hardly function.

Though we very much loved our little boy, we wondered what God had been thinking when He sent such a high-needs baby our way. The Bible says that children will bring strength into their parents’ lives (see Psalm 127:4-5). But having a child only seemed to fill our lives with exhaustion. Parenthood certainly was not making us strong. Or was it?

Several months into our new life of fatigue and sleeplessness, God began to awaken us to a hidden opportunity being presented to us through our baby: tensile strength training.

The strength of rope is measured by the term “tensile strength.” Great weights are tied to the rope and then dropped to test the resiliency of the rope under stress. The greater the ability for the rope to endure weight and combative force, the stronger the tensile rating.

Our souls are measured the very same way. If we have never focused on building our tensile strength, then even the smallest weights and stresses will cause us to snap. But if we are willing to build our tensile strength and train like an Olympian, our souls will be able to endure weights even as gargantuan as imprisonment and torture. The heroic Christians throughout history that gave up their lives in such astounding ways were the ones who trained their inner physique to handle the greatest pressures and stresses life could throw their way.

Hudson Taylor, for example, was known as a man who could endure the most extreme crisis with unshakable calm and unwavering confidence in the faithfulness of His God. Throughout his Christian life, he faced incredible hardship, fatigue, and stress beyond what a normal human can handle. Most others would have crumbled physically and emotionally under the weights that he carried. But by God’s grace, Hudson Taylor allowed each challenge, each trial, and each hardship to build his inner tensile strength. And thus, every difficulty that came into his life only made him stronger and not weaker.

Eric and I realized that the difficulty and inconvenience of raising a high-strung baby could either strengthen us or weaken us. It all depended on how we responded to the opportunity God was putting in front of us. Thus far, we had only focused on the hardship, the lack of sleep, and the frustration of having a child that never seemed to settle down. But now, we began to thank God for the opportunity to be made strong through the new challenges of parenting. We began to stop complaining and start rejoicing every time we had to wake up in the middle of the night (which was a lot!).

As we embraced the training opportunity God had given us, it was amazing to see what happened. Though in the natural realm we should have been weak, we actually became stronger. We were able to calmly handle things that used to crush us. Our bodies became disciplined – instead of our desire for rest controlling us, now we were able to immediately respond to the call of God, even from a dead sleep, instead of yielding to the selfish cravings of our flesh to roll over in bed and pull the covers over our head. We began to catch a glimpse of what Paul meant when he said, “…I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27 NASB).

Since those early days with Hudson, we have discovered time and time again that children truly do present the most amazing opportunities to build tensile strength. Children are not convenient to one’s flesh. Newborn babies are not considerate of their parents’ desire for rest, sleep, quiet conversation, or a predictable schedule. And there is no “break,” no reprieve, from the responsibilities of being a parent – it is always there, day after day, night after night. Unlike almost any other challenge, babies and young children can provide one of the very best training grounds for spiritual and physical discipline. If we are willing to rise up and accept the challenge, they can make us strong and fit for the battles we are called to fight in this Christian life.

Eric and I have discovered that the most extreme challenges we have faced in our parenting have been the very tools God has used to equip us for the epic life-or-death battles we have had to fight in our ministry.

When Harper came home from Korea, she had been living in the opposite time zone from us, so she slept all day and was wide-awake all night. Right as she fell asleep, Hudson was waking up for the day. This went on for many weeks and it felt like many years! So once again we had a tensile strength opportunity to embrace. And through it, God made us stronger and prepared us for the powerful all-night prayer sessions He was calling us to.

When Kip came home from the hospital as a newborn, he struggled with sleeping through the night and acid reflux, much the same way that Hudson had. At the same time, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Avy and dealing with extreme nausea and fatigue. It was yet another season of being supernaturally made strong through our weakness; learning how to rejoice the moment we heard his cry, no matter what our bodies were telling us. This training prepared me for my setapartgirl event many months later, when I needed to give an entire weekend conference to several hundred girls just one week before my due date, and was feeling like I was about to pop! But I knew that just as God had sustained me in the early days with Kip, he would sustain me in my last few days of the pregnancy. I knew from experience that I could rely on Him to give me all the strength I needed to speak Truth boldly, even though my body felt weak.

When we first launched Ellerslie, one of the most intensive ministry tasks we have ever undertaken, our four children were all under the age of four, three of them in diapers. Not the most convenient situation! We actually had a veteran pastoral couple (who’d never had children) tell us that because of the extra responsibility of having so many young children, there was no way we would be able to handle all the pressures and weights that came along with a discipleship ministry.

Yet the opposite was true! Our children actually trained us to stay spiritually sharp, to buffet our flesh, to say “no” to laziness and weakness, and to do hard things without complaining or arguing. Without our children as a training ground, I am not sure we would have been properly equipped for the intensity, responsibility, and discipline of the ministry we were called to. Because of what God had taught us through our kids, we were truly ready for the battle. We have discovered that children really are like arrows in the hand of a mighty man! Though they seem to usher only weakness into a parent’s life, in God’s pattern they bring the most amazing strength.

If your children are bringing difficulties and inconveniences into your life (and what kids don’t at some level?), then I would encourage you to embrace this amazing opportunity God has given you. Allow Him to use each challenge in your parenting to produce greater tensile strength in your life. You will be amazed at how, in weakness, He can make you stronger than you ever thought possible – temper tantrums, morning sickness, sleepless nights, little-kid messes and all!*

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