My friend Bronwyn shares a recent story about finding her courage…
This is the first sentence I have written in a month, and if you listen carefully, you might hear my brain creaking with the strain. You might also be able to hear my heart pounding, because I can’t remember ever coming to a page with so much anxiety.
You see, a few weeks ago my creative canoe nearly capsized. I got caught in a storm of accusation and in its wake I was a quaking, trembling, nauseous mess. My confidence was shot and I texted my writing buddy and told her I was bailing in this writing thing. I retreated from my computer and shored up on the couch with a pile of library books, a Netflix subscription, and the remote control—a creative castaway.
Because you see, after the initial hurt and shock was past, and after all the reconciliation-work-that-could-be-done had been done; I was still scared. I am still scared. That little pilot light of creativity—the willingness to try—had been snuffed out. So why not give up on this habit of stringing words together and sending them out into the world? Why risk anything when things can go so very, very wrong? Why not just snuggle with my kids on the couch, read great literature, bake cookies, and pretty the scenario up with a verse from Philippians about learning the secret of contentment? Behold the piety of my pity-party.
This would absolutely have been my tragic trajectory, were it not for one thing: a community of people who love me. Over the course of the following days, I received message after message from friends saying they were praying, that they were sorry I was so sad, that I should take the time I needed to pray and to process – but that I should not let this disappointment defeat me. “Your voice matters,” they wrote. “Don’t give up.”
I confess that I found it so much easier to hear the single voice in my head that said “you are awful and you should just quit” than to hear the multitude of voices saying “we love you and you should keep on.” I wondered often in that month whether shame is a Velcro-hooked thing and our souls like natural-fasteners: shame wanting to attach itself to us in every hurtful circumstance with a relentless grip. We have our hearts broken and shame clamps down a “you weren’t good enough” message. We suffer disappointment and shame latches on with “you didn’t deserve any better.”
It took the strength of a village to help me tug against the shame. To be humbled by the hurt but not humiliated by it. I desperately needed others to hold these truths out to me. By myself, it is all too easy to listen to the bullying of fear. But to listen the coaxing of courage, I need others.
To find courage, we all need others. We need others to pray with faith for our broken relationships when we are so hurt we can hardly muster a broken hallelujah. We need others to pray with hope for our dreams when we are so afraid we can hardly name them. We need others to hear our confessions and speak mercy to us when we’ve messed up so that the pardon of the gospel can take true anchor in our storms. The shield of faith that Ephesians 6 commands us to wield in the face of attack is not raised alone: it is raised by all y’all—you in its plural form, in the Greek. None of us can extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one alone.
“Write a guest post for me,” said Tina, “on faith and courage.” Her invitation came just days after the great storm, and the waters were still choppy all around me. I laughed out loud. “Sure,” I replied, “*if* I ever take up writing again.” She sent me a link to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert, with her kindling message that creativity means choosing the path of creativity over the path of fear. I meditated on this for days. But her invitation had done its work: it was an “I believe in you” life preserver thrown into a sea of doubt. It was a hand held out to me as I stumbled into fear, inviting me back into curiosity with her as a trustworthy friend.
And so here I am, a month later, ignoring the pounding of my heart and getting back in the boat.
Tina is one of the all y’all—we all are the all y’all to one another—and we have a sacred challenge to hold our faith and courage and hope for one another, that in the days of trial we may stand. Not one of us is strong enough to withstand life’s storms alone. We were not meant to “dig deeper” to find the resources within ourselves, even if we have deep roots anchored into God… for God has not given us abstract theological comfort, he has given us his body: his body in Jesus to die our death, and his body in the church to live the life he calls us to.
Our high school’s motto was Prosit Spes Labori. We work in hope. Not I work in hope. We. I am not alone in my teetering creative canoe. You are not alone in your uncertainty and hurt.
It is easy to fear alone. But faith and courage are ours together.
Bronwyn Lea is a writer, international conference speaker, and lover of conversations over coffee. Born in South Africa, she now lives in California with her husband and 3 littles. She is passionate that people should know that they are deeply loved by God and that their lives are eternally significant. Bronwyn writes at various fun places around the web, including Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics, RELEVANT, The Huffington Post, and Scary Mommy. She blogs weekly about all things holy and hilarious at bronlea.com. Find her on Facebook or on Twitter (@bronleatweets). http://www.bronlea.com
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