Can I Call Myself Brave?

Can I Call Myself Brave?

IMG_6574I looked up at a cornflower blue sky as fine silt squished between my toes. I clutched a piece of emerald green sea glass in my left hand running my fingers along the edges worn smooth by the current of the river. My husband was up ahead, and I watched him look down at the silt ripples under his feet and look up at the mountains that curved around us. I took a deep breath of spruce scented air and I felt it. Brave. I called myself brave.

It wasn’t because I had made some great decision or given some monumental sacrifice. It wasn’t even because I was far away in a tiny Canadian town. I’ve always saved the word brave for those in the history books, for the ones who moved through the night on an underground railroad, for the ones who donned a uniform knowing they might never return, for the ones who wore yellow stars. And brave isn’t adequate enough to describe those heroes. They are the bravest of the brave. But I wonder–was there a seismic shift in their hearts? Did they wake up one day saying, “It’s all changing today. Today, I’m going to be brave. Today, I’m going to risk my life for truth and light. Today, I might die or I might give up something I love or I might suffer, but I’m still doing it.” Maybe they did.

Or maybe they heard a whisper and said yes with knees trembling. Maybe they saw a hurting person and chose love. Maybe they unfurled white knuckles around the budget spreadsheet or the last bit of food or the well-built reputation and surrendered to the unknown. Maybe brave didn’t happen in one moment. Maybe brave was the culmination of a thousand little yeses, each one like a piece of sea glass in the hand, a bright flash of emerald color. Calling the adoption agency. Looking the homeless man in the eyes. Paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or finding yourself with open hands and an open heart on a remote beach in a tiny Canadian town. Maybe we don’t choose brave as much as brave chooses us. Maybe brave is a fundamental part of our being made in the image of God, but all our fear and insecurities and comfort-seeking ways obscure what was there all along. What if when He fashioned each of us He put brave within us, and every time we surrender to Him a little piece of us shimmers like sea glass in the silt?

On that day and on that beach, I decided to call myself brave because recently I’ve been facing fear head on. I’ve been leaning into it, not running from it. I’ve been calling it to the light, and I’ve been giving my small, quivering yes to God. Brave isn’t fearless, and she isn’t perfect. Brave might not be well-known or ever publicly acknowledged. But Brave wakes up every morning with an open heart and open hands and with trembling knees gives her yes, small as it may be, to a big, big God.

Careful

Careful

matt with polar bear I’ve always been a careful person. In college when I lived off-campus my last two years, I always left twenty minutes before a class even though I lived less than five miles away. Just in case a train blocked traffic or a parking spot proved elusive or the vending machine needed a visit (I’m a sucker for Peanut M&M’s. Don’t judge.) I carry the scissors with the point downward and safely within my grasp. And I always use my blinkers.

Since writing my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be brave, to be dangerous for God. Certainly, I’m not handing my three-year-old my Wüsthof knife and letting her start to chop anytime soon, but I also don’t want to pack her away in bubble wrap.  How do parents walk that tight-rope? How do we teach our kids to be wise and vigilant, knowing the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy? But at the same time, how do we empower them with boldness and courage?

I’ve been studying Isaiah in my priority time, a favorite for me because the words soar off the page, powerful yet full of grace. This morning I came to focus on Isaiah 7:4. In this chapter, Ahaz is the king of Judah and he and the house of David have just been told that their enemies are now forming alliances. These enemies had already defeated Ahaz individually and now they were collaborating. When they heard the news, Ahaz and his people were afraid. Isaiah says they were “shaken as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” (And maybe a little like my man with this polar bear.) But the Lord had a message for Ahaz, and in verse four, the Lord told Isaiah and his son to go to Ahaz and tell him, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid.”

Be careful. Keep calm. And don’t be afraid. In the same command God told them to be careful and don’t be afraid. This leads me to believe that the two qualities aren’t mutually exclusive. We can be brave and careful. We can be brave without being careless. We can be suited up in armor but not timid. We can be wise but not lazy. We can be prudent but not selfish.

In our kitchen hangs a shadow box with two medals given to Matt’s late grandfather for his service in WWII. When Papaw went to battle, he went with training and equipment. He was brave certainly, but he was also careful.

I have to teach my girls to be both brave and careful. To clothe themselves in God’s armor but to always remember that armor is useless on its own. It is the courage of the heart inside that gives the armor a purpose.

Be careful. Keep calm. And don’t be afraid. But maybe watch out for polar bears.

Dangerous Girls

Dangerous Girls

IMG_5384Tonight before dinner, Lydia said our blessing and it went like this, “God, please protect our food. We love you. Amen.” As soon as she finished, Matt said, “Do you think we pray about protection too much?” Ouch. I’m seeing my struggle with fear creep into my daughter, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

It reminded me of a blog Jen Hatmaker wrote a little while back, Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids. I doubt the word “brave” has ever been used to describe me, but I’m on a mission to change that. These words from Jen’s blog have stuck with me…

I don’t want to be the reason my kids choose safety over courage. I hope I never hear them say, “Mom will freak out,” or “My parents will never agree to this.” May my fear not bind their purpose here. Scared moms raise scared kids. Brave moms raise brave kids. Real disciples raise real disciples.

And Jen goes on to share a story from Erwin McManus, a story that gives me chills every time I read it…

One summer Aaron went to a youth camp. He was just a little guy, and I was kind of glad because it was a church camp. I figured he wasn’t going to hear all those ghost stories, because ghost stories can really cause a kid to have nightmares. But unfortunately, since it was a Christian camp and they didn’t tell ghost stories, because we don’t believe in ghosts, they told demon and Satan stories instead. And so when Aaron got home, he was terrified.

“Dad, don’t turn off the light!” he said before going to bed. “No, Daddy, could you stay here with me? Daddy, I’m afraid. They told all these stories about demons.”

And I wanted to say, “They’re not real.”

He goes, “Daddy, Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?”

I could feel it. I could feel warm-blanket Christianity beginning to wrap around him, a life of safety, safety, safety.

I said, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.”

And he goes, “All right. But pray I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy.”

So, tonight as I laid Charlotte down in her crib and tucked Lydia under her covers, I changed my prayer. Instead of asking God to protect them, I prayed He would make them dangerous girls, brave girls. Girls who make the enemy tremble. This mom isn’t naturally very brave, but I’ve let fear control me for far too long. It’s time to get a little dangerous.