Till I See the Lights

This blog was originally published on The Road to Brave.

I am an introverted traveler.

Honest confession. 

If you are someone who likes to talk to people while in airports or on a plane and you have ever found yourself next to me, I am quite sorry. It probably wasn’t a stimulating experience.

Most of the time, I travel by myself — and when I do, I end up trying to catch up on projects, journaling my last three+ months of life, submitting extra work projects by the light of a very poor airport WiFi connection, or attempting to hide the deep-heart sadness of a goodbye behind extra-large sunglasses. Or sleeping, because heaven knows moments of that can be few and far between.  

A while back, I boarded a cross-country flight after a great but sleep-depriving trip and some sad farewells. Because I’d purchased a steerage (cough I mean basic economy) ticket, I’d been randomly assigned a middle seat. Oh, lucky me. Internally I began to consider whether or not I could work on my laptop without disrupting my seatmates…or could I journal without them reading over my shoulder? cause that could be awkward…or should I just nap…

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As it turned out, however, a passing comment about being a military kid ended up sparking a lively conversation between me and my seatmates (both Army veterans), and before the plane took off we’d already exchanged more words than I usually do in the entirety of a travel day. Eventually one moved back to an empty row behind us so we could all stretch out a bit more, but my remaining seatmate and I kept up an intermittent conversation throughout the duration of our 6-hour flight.

With a variety of careers ranging from military captain to IT specialist to self-published author, his resume was impressive. But it was his attitude toward life that really struck me.

“I’ve tried to see the northern lights twice already,” he told me cheerfully, relaying his trips to two different countries. “And would you believe it? Both times it rained the whole week I was there! I only saw one streak of green. So you know what? Next time I’m booking a one-way ticket to Fairbanks, AK and staying there until I see all of the northern lights.”

That sort of resilience, while in this context lighthearted, seemed to earmark most of his pursuits. He’d encountered medical discharge from the military, the loss of a job in exchange for adherence to personal integrity, and — most devastating — the unexpected and sudden loss of a dear wife.

Yet his response? Endurance. Not only had he continued to travel and seek new life experiences after his wife’s passing, but he also had a daughter and granddaughter living with him and proudly shared about how much he loved both of them. Instead of letting hardships cripple him, he chose to respond by pursuing life to the full.

As we parted ways after a surprisingly brief six hours, he left me with one final comment.

“Don’t wait [to live life]. We never know how much time we’re gonna have.”

Sometimes being brave is all about sticking with the plan. Sometimes courage means sacrificing now so that we can enjoy the benefits of our hard work later. Sometimes being strong means putting things off so we can have something better later.

But you know what?

Other times, being brave is all about dumping the plan.

Sometimes courage means seizing the day and living in the moment.

And sometimes, being strong means throwing our plans and calendars to the wind and living spontaneously. Being available. Grabbing coffee for a friend even if you have a hundred things on your to-do list. Breathing in the cold air and throwing our arms open to the sunshine. Choosing to live life today because we don’t know how many tomorrows we will be given.

Courage seems to be a series of counter-intuitive paradoxes. Hold on. Let go. Wait. Run. Lay something down. Fight till the end. Each one, depending on the circumstance, the most courageous choice we could make.

And in the upcoming posts, we’ll explore some of those paradoxes. But at the end of the day, each paradox is all about living life to the full for the sake of Him who gave everything for us. 

We never know how much time we’re going to have. But we always know the One who gave us the time we have. 

So don’t wait. 

Even if it requires more courage than you thought possible. 

Living fully and completely alive takes bravery. I’m learning that, day by day. But in a generation that so often chooses to deal with life’s challenges and pain by just going back to sleep, 

or trying to numb the hurt, 

or choosing the path of least resistance, 

let’s be people who leave it all on the table. Who don’t wait to live life. Who take the high road, even if it’s sometimes the hard one, because it means running after Jesus with everything we are. 

Who live bravely. 

Maybe on my next flight, living life well will mean starting a conversation with someone instead of introverting.

Or maybe it will mean booking a one-way flight to Alaska and staying till I see the Northern Lights.