Saturday, April 25, 2015

To be brave would be an awfully big adventure.

It's a word or phrase that seems to be everywhere. 
When you pick up a book it's hidden until the 3rd chapter, when you suddenly see it pop out at you. It's somehow in all the sermons you listen to, cleverly woven it. 
Regardless of the chosen playlist or genre, it will find it's way into your Spotify. 
And when you try to watch a movie to stop thinking about it for a few minutes, it ends up being the theme of the entire film. God's so incredibly creative and clever like that. When He wants you to learn something, there's just no use whatsoever trying to run from it. Might as well buckle your seatbelt and get ready for a ride. 

It began in a conversation with a woman in South Africa. As I briefly explained what I did, she said "You are very brave." I kind of snickered before I could stop myself. Brave?! Nope. I just hang out and help people. It's fun for me. Nothing very brave about that.  But more people from home kept using that word in communication with me. I just thought of how ridiculous that is. Especially because as I was in South Africa, I began to experience some pretty intense anxiety and depression. Something I had not dealt with in quite a number of years. That certainly pointed out that I wasn't brave. I whined and complained to a dear friend about it all the time and the only thing I felt was unstable. (Thankfully she reminded me it's okay to be a mess.)

When I found out I was coming home sooner than expected, it hit me hard. I cried. And complained. And was angry. A LOT.  I freaked out about leaving. I freaked out about separating from my friends. I freaked out about changes. I freaked out about coming home. I freaked out about the future. I just felt not ready for all of it. My "older sister" brought me to the airport. She hugged me and told me I could "be brave."  But all I was that day was so afraid of everything that the moment I had to separate from her at security, I simply began sobbing and didn't stop for about 7 hours. (The poor man next to me on that plane probably had the most awkward flight of his life.) 

After getting home, I couldn't decide if I wanted to see people or hide out. My emotions were all over the place and quite unpredictable. The thing that was so hard for me was that everyone wants to meet up with me and then spend time telling me I'm so brave. Which feels like the biggest lie in the world. I don't like that people see me that way while I'm sobbing as I drive home every night and texting Africa in tears saying "I can't do this. I don't want to do this. I'm so lost here. I just want to go back." But the thing is.....every time I turn on music, there's this theme of being brave going on with all the top songs. Every conversation with Africa ends up with "Be brave." Every book I open has the word popping out within pages. Every podcast I click on wants to tackle the idea. I can't get away from it! So I decided to do the only logical it. Understand it. Dissect it. And be it. 

The more I've dived into studying the concept of bravery, the more I see that I knew nothing about it. My ideas of bravery before now included superheros seemingly without fear. Firefighters marching straight into flames. Soldiers working hard to fight for and protect our freedom. Those are all the pictures I'd put on the posters that plaster the wall of the grade-school classroom. And of course, when asked who the bravest person in the world is, I'd say Jesus. So naturally, I turned to scripture to study how He did things. My ultimate goal being to strive for His example.
This is when things began to get very interesting.

Jesus. Brave. Okay. What kinds of things did Jesus do? 
He stood up for what was right despite what was popular. 
He defended and protected to unseen and forgotten. He redeemed the ruined. 
He faced the painful and the ugly rather than hide from it. He wept with those He loved. He felt all the emotions all the time about everything. He put others first. He served. He was humble. He didn't stop to build any form of home or empire or estate, even though He could've had the best. (“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” -Matthew 8:20) He loved deeply. He hurt deeply for others. He noticed others-like really noticed them. He was honest. He rested when He needed it. He was real and vulnerable and raw. He often hid away to be with The Father. He truly sat with and listened to others. He looked into the eyes of the unwanted. The vile. The dirty. And told them of a King who was crazy about them. He believed when nobody else did. And He was simply himself. At all times. As I was thinking through these things, the whole picture of bravery in my head took on a new life. A new color. And a new form. I began to see what it could look like for me to be brave:

I can be weak. I can cry all I need to. I can be messy. I can be in a season where I have no clue what I'm doing with my life. I can feel lost. Homeless even. Unsure. Small. And I can be completely open about it without feeling any shame. As long as I am loving, leaning on, and putting my trust in the Lord. As long as I live in obedience to Him. As long as my daily goal is for others to experience His love, redemption, and grace. As long as I am serving and selflessly loving others. And as long as His Kingdom is what matters to me at the end of the day. As long as the mess isn't an excuse for inaction. You see, we don't have to have it all together. In fact, we don't have to have any of it together. Being brave just means that even in the junk we don't cease being crazy about who Jesus is and willing to be like Him. He takes care of the rest. Is that beautiful news for you today? It sure is for me. I think I'd like to try being mighty brave.

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