This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.
I wish it wasn’t one of the loudest voices in my head. Why isn’t my internal cheerleading squad in practice today, drowning out those silly thoughts shouted at me from the too-good internal critic seated firmly in the stands?
But no. Apparently “You’re doing great!” decided to take a day off.
Or a week.
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Maybe you’ve been there, too, standing in the middle of the stadium of your life and attempting to summon up a well of courage to make the next play. Trying to disregard the arrogant internal not-fan shouting all kinds of lovely things at you. Things like, “Well, that’s ridiculous! You can’t do that. Not your thing. Not your skill. Not your strength. You’re not enough for that. What on earth are you thinking?”
Like, for random instance, when you’re thinking about writing about bravery, but you’re a self-described small-comfort-zoner to whom bold leadership, Shackleton-style courage, and a zesty sense of “to heck with the safety thing” are about the furthest thing from natural a human can get.
There are some obvious choices for authoring a work like that. Someone like George Washington. Theodore Roosevelt. Daniel in the lion’s den. David facing Goliath. Chamberlain rallying his men. Beniah facing down an enemy with a spear as thick as a weaver’s beam. Someone to whom bravery just seems to come as naturally as breathing.
I breathe just fine, don’t get me wrong. It’s the bravery thing that isn’t quite so present.
To be honest, one of the very first things I notice are the glaring discrepancies between me and that sort of strong, capable leader. Discrepancies that are all too quick to whisper in my ear about who I am (not strong) and what I’m able to do (not much).
Because I am not a brave person.
You might have gathered that already.
To some people, courage comes as naturally as breathing. Not to me. I really wish it did. I really, really wish it did. But no. I’m the one who finds any kind of uncertainty to be a nerve-tingling experience.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see a remarkable truth — the truth that at the end of the day, it’s not actually our courage that matters. It’s not our strength that makes a difference. No matter how bold, brazen, or brave we are on our own, even if we possess crazy amounts of courage, that’s not actually what matters.
Throughout Scripture, our God reminds us that when He gets involved in our lives — well, it is time to watch out! Because if we are willing, He will carry us through things we never in a million years would have thought we could walk through. Suddenly it is no longer our courage that matters, but His. No longer our ability that matters, but His. No longer our strength that matters, but His.
You’d think that’d be enough of an encouragement for me to quit my Moses-style protests and get on the same page with God about this project, literally and figuratively.
You can laugh at me. Really. But I wasn’t done protesting. Because another thought — another fear, if we’re honest — came right behind my perhaps-reasonable feelings of inadequacy for the task of writing on courage. But this one was quieter, and kept deeper inside.
“Lord, if I write this, it’s going to hurt.”
It was honest, at least. Because writing this sort of thing — walking the sort of journey it would make me walk — this sort of thing would push me beyond my sweet little comfort zone into a world where I was forced to come to terms with anything I’d shoved under the rug.
Because you see, there’s a hard lesson I’ve learned about bravery.
Bravery isn’t just a Teddy-Roosevelt-style life where you hunt big game and tread softly and carry a big stick. It isn’t just about swallowing a fear of heights or getting up on stage to speak. It isn’t just about being bold in social situations, or tackling a tough new job, or moving across the country (or to a new country), or muscling through moments of stomach-churning anxiety.
Bravery is also about learning who we are, and refusing to place our identity in the wrong things. And saying hard good-byes. And choosing to believe the truth when it hurts less to accept the lie. And holding on, and letting go. And waiting when we want to charge. And taking the tiniest of steps forward when everything else feels too heavy to move.
And making the choice to hope when everything seems dark.
I’ve prayed a lot for courage over the years. Often something quick like this, especially in the midst of a stretching or scary situation.
“Lord, make me brave.”
Yes, amen, and amen. It’s a prayer I’ve prayed so, so many times.
We can all picture people we know or have heard of who are “brave” people. They are strong. Courageous. Seemingly unswervable. They naturally live in this place called “Brave”, or else they moved there long ago and have set up permanent residence.
And then…there’s…not-brave people. People like me. People who live in the land of “Eeep!” and whose natural prerogative is to dip toes in puddles rather than leap off cliffs.
I’ve heard many things about being not-brave. I’ve heard it described (usually somewhat comically) as having a healthy sense of self-preservation. Or as an indication of intelligence. A friend once told me with a laugh, “Well, you just have an overactive sense of prudence.” That one at least made me laugh.
But if we slow down long enough, take a mental step back, we get this nagging sense that there is more to life than anxiety. Or worry. Or fear. Or the thousand small insecurities we hang on to instead of courage.
But where do we find the land of Brave? Where do we find the strong, courageous life and what comes out of it?
You’ve probably heard the quote, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The one that looks fantastic on Instagram against an Unsplash-generated stock image of shoreline cliffs and sunrises and stuff.
Of course I found it inspirational (sunrise and all), as most quotes are wont to be, but it didn’t help me much. If fear was a chasm, how did I get across to the other side? Where was the bridge? Was there even a land of Brave on the other side?
But I wondered. Enough to take a peep over the chasm.
Because at some point, you just realize, I am so, so tired of being afraid.
And a thought begins to take shape. What life is on the other side of fear?
Have you wondered? Do you wonder?
Because I did.
The fear thing gets old after a while. Particularly when you start getting little glimpses of something different. Something extraordinary. Something whole.
Kind of like Christian in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Not to be too bold in creating a metaphor with a massive literary classic, of course. But once you start tasting the life that only comes when you push past and through fear to the other side, you can’t ever forget what it felt like.
It made me want to leave the land of Eeep and take the road to Brave in the hopes that I would find a strong, courageous life at the end of it.
So I did. Trembling in my laced-up, suede-brown Merrell hiking boots, trepidatious as Piglet (for those who are old enough to have grown up with AA Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh series). Leaving Eeep behind and taking the road to Brave and hoping I’d live to see the end of it.
I’m still alive, as you might guess, since I am in fact present to put pen to paper. Whether or not I made it all the way to Brave remains to be seen (you can’t put everything in an introduction, after all).
But, dear one, I found something extraordinary on the road — disguised by a very, very ordinary trail.
Something worth sharing. Something worth writing. Something worth facing fear and the challenges a series like this might force us to wrestle with in order to find the sunrise on the other side. And in these articles, this “journal” of my journey, it would be an honor and a privilege to share the road with you, if you would choose to walk with me.
Maybe you’ve never really thought about courage.
Maybe external boldness comes more naturally to you than to others, and maybe it has allowed you to safely tuck away those raw, vulnerable little places in your heart where the warmth of courage hasn’t touched in a long time.
Maybe you’re someone like me, and you know you’re being summoned to a braver pursuit of Christ, but you’re not sure what it looks like.
But one thing I do know: courage is a little bit easier, a little bit simpler, when we run after it with others.
So for the space of these posts, it would be a joy to walk with you on this road toward becoming brave.
In the words of C.S. Lewis (in what is one of my favorite quotes)…
Further up and further in.
Victoria Schurter is the VP of Content and Development for Unbound. An Unbound graduate, Victoria has served in a variety of roles including student leadership, coaching, and in the Business and Leadership program. She is passionate about equipping young adults to recognize their potential, to know God, and make Him known in daily life.
When she’s not working on an Unbound project, you can find her scribbling on a novel, playing a favorite instrument, riding horses, watching a sunset, or dreaming up some new adventure that absolutely includes the Pacific coastline. One of the best parts of her world is walking alongside her fellow Unbound students as they make an eternal impact in their generation.