I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog by Donald Latumahina which he calls “Life Optimizer.” It’s full of self-help and business skills, but he wrote about personal capacity and I was intrigued by his definition: Expanding my capacity means being able to do things I wasn’t capable of before. It means being able to handle things I previously couldn’t. If you consciously decide to expand your capacity, you will become a different person in the future. You will look back and see how much you’ve grown.
Has he been in SFI?! I can’t think of a more apt description of what happens in the eight months of a Strong Families Institute cohort. We focus on building personal capacity and self-reliance so that mothers believe they are capable, and important, and that they are not alone. We have seen over and over again that an SFI grad really is transformed. Over and over I hear testimony from people who have referred women to us. “I can’t believe the change! She’s like a different person!” But in reality, it’s not that they have lost the essence of who they are, it is that they have moved closer to finding it, becoming capable of things they weren’t before and able to handle things they previously couldn’t. AND they are full of confidence and conviction that they have the capacity to keep moving forward as they discover more and more about themselves. They find the “real” person inside; the one God intended to be a unique and beautiful expression of humanity – his crowning jewel of creation. It’s not that they are different, it’s that they discover the potential that lies within and they begin to see through the difficult, even brutal things, that have clouded the person they really are. They begin to embrace God’s handiwork in their own lives.
In The Work of His Hands, Ken Gire develops an inspiring metaphor about sculpture to illustrate the way in which God “finds us” in our rough stage and brings out the beauty. He refers to the hard work of sculpture and the eye of the creator to see the “beauty inside the rough stone.” Chiseling away the excess and getting down to the beauty is a difficult task, but when the beauty in the stone emerges, it is a work of art. Yes, SFI is a transformative experience, but not because the women become different people. They discover, through sometimes painful reflection and lots of hard work, who they really are in God’s eyes. They begin to love “the work of His hands” that is them and they want to see more.
Another cohort is graduating this month. They’re already writing their Reflections Papers. They are making new goals and considering strategies to continue to build capacity in their own lives and in the lives of their children. They’ve seen a glimpse of who they really are and who they’re meant to be. And we get to watch. It doesn’t get much better than that.