I write a lot about bravery here. I try to live in the knowledge that because of the blood of Christ, I am already declared bold and brave. This is my identity in Christ: He has made me bold and brave, whether I feel like it or not. And it's because of this that I can step into the world in spite of fear. I don't have to listen to the fear voices; I can breathe deeply while terror swirls around me and know that I'm going to be okay because I'm safe in Jesus. I wish I could say I've always thought this. I wish I could say I've always felt brave. But really, the reason I have to remind myself of all of this is that I'm not naturally courageous. Most of the time I'm 110% terrified. That's why I have to write about my bold identity in Jesus so often: I need it. Usually, I'm cowering in fear, shaking in my boots. It's been that way for almost as long as I can remember.
But something happened last year that stopped me in my tracks and made me reevaluate everything I had ever thought about myself.
Last fall, I had just started attending a new GC at church; Meredith, one of my best friends on the planet, co-led it. It was a Wednesday night in September or October, and I don't remember the conversation, but I remember telling everyone in the room that I didn't think I was a brave person. "I wish I was. But I'm not. I'm just scared of things." Afraid of rejection. Afraid of the opinion of others. Afraid of looking like an idiot. Afraid of being wrong. I'm just naturally fearful, I said.
I think it was the first time I had said it out loud.
That night, Meredith and Aaron (our GC leaders) asked us to pray over one another. Parker, one of the guys in GC, offered to pray for me. There's something powerful about someone praying over you. Words being spoken on your behalf in the presence of God by someone who cares about you? There's nothing like it in the world. And I'll never forget what he said that night.
"Lord, she says she doesn't think she's a brave person," he prayed. "But she doesn't see herself the way You see her."
I sobbed. I had never thought of it that way before. Could it be that God saw me as brave? Could it be that He looked at me and saw someone bold, the warrior maiden I had always dreamed of being, from the time I was a girl, even then, as a twenty-year-old young woman?
I think that's exactly what God sees.
The number of times He tells us not to fear, the assurance He gives us of HIs constancy and presence -- He has called us into bravery and boldness. "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (1 Timothy 1:7). He made us for that power, that assuredness -- because we have those in Jesus. What we were made for but gave away at the Fall, He has given back to us by the blood of His Son.
What's more, because of the redemptive work of Christ, we are absolutely absolved of all our fear. Fear is an indication that we don't trust God, which is a sin -- but in Jesus, we get to deny that fear and walk into holy trust even though we might be a little (a lot) terrified. We are covered by Jesus -- and Jesus was braver than I could ever hope to be alone. We are in Christ, and He has bravery and courage to spare.
We get that.
Gradually, Parker's words started shaping me. I started to think and write and talk (in that order) about the way that Jesus has created me to be courageous. I started to remember more frequently that I was safe in Christ and didn't have to fear things anymore. And gradually, slowly, those words started to mean something to me and show up in my life.
Suddenly I noticed I was less nervous before performances.
Suddenly I was approaching people whose rejection I feared.
It's a slow process, but it's been happening to me, creeping up on me, like someone trying to frighten me.
Over the last few months, I've been noticing a little extra bravery in myself. More than I thought was there. I remember telling my mom that I feel so much braver than I was before I broke up with my ex. I'm noticing in little ways that I'm a little less afraid. It's gradual, but it's noticeable to me.
And then something weird happened -- other people started noticing it, too.
At the beginning of the semester, my voice was exhausted. Pretty perpetually. One day I was scheduled to perform on our weekly Voice Area Recital, but I wasn't sure I could sing. My teacher asked me to, anyway (in the professional singing world, you're required to sing in almost all circumstances), and I did. I will be the first to admit that I am not super proud of that performance. Considering the vocal shape I was in, it was good; otherwise, it was okay. My inner perfectionist (who refuses to die) was crushed. I stood outside the recital hall and bawled like a little child. But later on, my sweet friend Jaque messaged me on Facebook. She said I had done beautifully, and that I was so brave.
Recently I attended the annual Texoma NATS competition, and I did not sing my best. When I found out I did not advance past the first round, for the fourth year in a row, I was pretty upset. I remember crying on many people's shoulders. But my favorite moment came when Dr. Ankrum, one of the voice faculty, came up to me and said another thing that I'll never forget.
"Coraggio." Italian for courage. "Coraggio. You've got a lot of it."
It's been over a year now since Parker prayed over me at Mere and Aaron's GC and Jesus spoke new life and holy courage into me. Over that year, I've been gradually learning something that feels like bravery to me. And in spite of the fear that still roils in my heart, I guess it's bravery.
I'm still on this journey. I promise you I'm not there yet. I promise you I don't really know what it looks like to live without fear. I'll know one day. But for now, I'm still learning, still struggling to believe the courage that Jesus speaks over me. Today is a day I feel kind of beaten down, and I don't feel like being brave. But Jesus promises me that I'm brave anyway, because He has said so. He promises that He'll walk with me into the fear, going before me, holding my hand.
I want to follow Him into whatever He has in store. After all -- adventure is a little perilous sometimes.
I hope I continue to learn to be courageous. I hope I continue to realize what bravery means, and to walk into the fear with my frail courage in my hands and with Jesus at my side.
I hope I keep discovering what it means to be brave.