We are the Brave.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I've been wrestling with this word for a while now:


And its twin, a noun:


I've been trying them on for size, seeing how they feel, struggling to become fluent in their cadences, to settle into their rhythms, to discern their nuances.

I'm a student of literature. I spend a great deal of time attempting to wrangle words into submission as I probe, analyze, and describe themes and theories. And when I can't find the words for something I want to say? When my sentences and the meaning they hold feel clumsy and confused? When there's no clear through-line between the emotion stirring inside me and a definition to give it shape?

I find it frustrating, to say the very least.

That's how I feel about the words brave and courage -- and it's compounded by the conviction that if I knew exactly how to define them, then I'd know exactly how to live them.

Because I'm in a season. A season of not knowing, exactly, who I am or where I'm going -- of feeling that I am, to quote St. Padre Pio, "a mystery to myself." And after nearly a year of therapy, I can't say that I'm necessarily any closer to solving that mystery, per se... though I do think the terms of it, and the fullness of my own complexity, have become clearer.

And there are things I am learning about myself, things I want to hold with care and share with others, that I am only just finding words for (those pesky words again!). But diving into the intricacies of my own story and giving someone else the book to read, unedited, are two different things.

And sometimes, the only word I have for that process is that it's just... hard. It's hard, and I don't have much patience, honestly, for the in-between. I preach the gospel of vulnerability and openness and honesty but am only just learning of the real courage that goes into sharing our hearts. And that it may take a while to develop.

And that's okay.

See, I've always regarded courage as something I either have or I don't. I'm either courageous or I'm cowardly. No middle ground. But when I voiced this to my friend Aura Lee over generously foamy chocolate chai tea lattes last week, she looked confused.

I was telling parts of the story, telling her some of what's been troubling me, line editing for concision and statements that get at the truth but don't probe too deeply, because it was all I could do in that conversation. And I was concerned that I was being a coward for not laying my whole heart bare on the table between us.

"No," she insisted, vigorously shaking her head. "When was the last time you accomplished anything meaningful right away?"

When I couldn't think of a single instance, she provided a poignant example: learning to read started with learning the alphabet, and the sounds that the letters made, before assigning meaning to single words and then, entire sentences.

She continued with something more pertinent to my current state in life: would I ever have dreamed of getting my master's degree in a single weekend, or even after a single class?

Her point being: it takes time to learn how to courage. It is born by degrees.

And the baby steps look like sharing bits and pieces here and there, and acknowledging that sometimes, there are things we aren't ready to share just yet. There are things that are perhaps, right now, only meant for quiet conversations with the Lord. And that's okay.

It's still courageous. It's still brave.

And so, I hope you remember this, the next time you are wondering if you are brave.

I promise, you are.

We are.


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