A young girl, barely a teen, yet carrying enough fears to last her a lifetime. Sitting in a lamp lit office clutching a pillow. The one way she hid. Time and time again. Week after week. Month after month. Sitting in her safe place. The one place where she could let her walls down and let herself be seen. The one place where she did not fear being vulnerable, being real, being honest. The one place where anxiety held no ground. She was not brave. She was tired and afraid.
A couple years had passed since that initial visit. So much change and redemption had occurred. But her office remained my safe place.
Because years had passed and she had watched and guided me through them from her chair and her prayer, she knew the words I needed to hear.
Amidst my seemingly endless fear, she knew that I needed to be encouraged. I felt hopeless still, despite so much healing. I was discouraged and disheartened at my own anxiety, my own inability and weakness. I wanted to be strong. I wanted anorexia and its co-occurring “friends” to be in the past, but I couldn’t seem to shake them. Not entirely.
It was at the end of a session, amidst this season of wrestling for freedom, that she spoke Hope & Truth over me. She leaned in from her grey arm chair, looked me right in the eyes and said the words that are printed in leather on my wrist & in my heart: “Arden, this is what brave* looks like. This, this right here, this pain & struggle, is what brave looks like. You’re brave not because you don’t fear or fail, but because you are afraid and you have failed but you keep fighting.”
That struck me to the core and has stuck with me since. It’s truth, those words she spoke over me. And they’re the same words being spoken over all of us.
Because my brave isn’t that different than yours. My brave is giving thanks in every circumstance. My brave is smiling through disappointment and rejection. My brave is trying again when I fail. My brave is fighting for freedom when bondage and sin and fear and bitterness and despair and doubt are easier. My brave is giving up control and trusting God with my body, my future, my dreams, fears. My brave is doing what’s best for me even if other people don’t understand. My brave is being vulnerable and sharing the story that God has written with my life. My brave is standing secure in who Christ made me to be and claiming my inheritance in Him. My brave is choosing life. So you see, my brave really isn’t that different from yours.
Listen to me, YOU are brave too. That struggle you’re dealing with. That disappointment you feel. That grief that threatens to overwhelm. That fear that is debilitating. That sadness that numbs you to the world. It’s all part of what makes you brave, not what makes you afraid.
This is what brave looks like. I know that the moments we need to hear those words the most are the very moments where those words are the hardest for us to hear. In the midst of fear and failure the last thing we would ever call ourselves is brave, but let me tell you that is when you are most brave.
When you are at your lowest but choose to look up, that’s brave. When you examine who you are as a human and hate everything you see, but choose to give yourself grace, that’s brave. When you are afraid, but choose to step out in faith regardless, that’s brave. When you think God made a mistake with you, but choose to believe what He says about you, that’s brave.
The list could go on and on, but notice something about every statement above. It’s a choice. Bravery is a choice. You have to choose to be brave. It doesn’t just happen. It’s hard, messy work, but it’s worthy work.
So you who feels like you are the furthest thing from brave, hear me out. If you are choosing to keep fighting when surrender would be easier or choosing to endure danger** and pain when there is a safer option then, by definition, you are choosing brave. If you are choosing grace, love, and forgiveness when the world is telling you anger, and bitterness are more rewarding options, then you are choosing brave. I really believe that if you are wholeheartedly choosing JESUS and the life we have in Him through the cross then you are choosing BRAVE.
And that choice, that brave Jesus choice, leaves you a force to be reckoned with.
*brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage
**danger: the possibility of something unwelcome or unpleasant