Try your best to remember the first moment you moved from the shallow part of the pool into the deep end unassisted. When all you’ve felt is the solid ground beneath your feet, the feeling of complete weightlessness can be unnerving. Sure, that same solid ground is under there somewhere, but it’s farther away than it’s been before. The momentary panic is replaced by a rush of jubilant energy. You did it! This is living! No more dread holding you back. You were brave long enough to leave the old behind, and it has paid off with loud cheers from your parents (and hopefully no mean siblings looking for some fresh meat to dunk).
Have you picked a word for the year? Just one concept you’d like to see God birth or expand in you until we change our calendars again?
2018 is my year of brave.
I’ve moved into it gently so far, whispering tiny steps of courage I notice myself taking. (This isn’t pride; it’s one of the holiest things I can do as a professional self-critic. These mini celebrations are evidence of God’s good work in me.) Saying something hard. Trying again. Bumping up against my comfort zone. Apologizing. All of these tiny microcosms of life are massive in heaven.
Brave can be messy.
My personality is such that I need to get it right. What is it, you ask so perceptively? Anything. Everything. Whatever I take up needs to be worthwhile (meaning flawless). Zero mistakes. Complete perfection. Being wrong paralyzes me. That’s a lot of pressure loaded onto my soul by nobody but myself. This need for rightness has severely limited what I allow myself to say yes to. If I can’t commit to operating at the highest standard of excellence, no thanks. Which creates a very small life for my parabled talents to be buried under.
My story adds another obstacle to being courageous. I recently heard about family roles and learned that I fit absurdly well into the “hero” niche. Internal pressure and external expectations mix to make me a natural cocktail of anti-brave.
Perfection and courage are at odds with one another. I’m absolutely exhausted chasing the former, and I was never expected to be flawless anyway. Someone has already accomplished that on my behalf. But I am called to the latter.
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.”
And on and on and on. So many passages pulling us to holy confidence.
One of the girls from She Reads Truth pointed out that Scripture doesn’t command our courage without a solid basis—the call to brave is almost always given with a reason (in the previous examples, because the Lord your God goes with you, because Jesus gives you His peace, and because you will not be ashamed or disgraced). Our boldness has brains.
My hope for this year of brave is that fear would no longer get the final say in my decision-making moments (from what to wear to whom to invite over for coffee to how I answer and for what reason).
I don’t want to make bold choices because I’m bullying myself to be brave. I want to make godly choices based on a solid foundation of gospel freedom, regardless of whether they make me look bold or not. The outside activity might shift, but it might not. I could possibly just end up doing what I do now but with an entirely different heart that beats with the ability to say yes or no. That’s what my brave can look like. Then again, being brave might look like the overtly gutsy option. That’s also what my brave can look like. It can squeak or it can roar.
The difference between this year of brave and the day I first moved into the deep end of the pool? Underneath me are the everlasting arms, and they will never let me go. He will never fail me, never forsake me.
What’s left to be afraid of?