Be Brave Series: Lean In & Be Brave by Jessica Lauren

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 AMPFullSizeRender-2

When my lovely Sister-friend Kailey asked me to write for her blog on being brave, I instantly wondered why she asked me. I have no idea why to this day. I didn’t ask; she didn’t say. I do not consider myself brave. I think to myself “chances are her readers won’t either”… And now you’re thinking “Great, this is going to be a super lousy wrongly titled blog.” And you may very well be right. Humor me; we’ll press on together.

I do not like heights; my family’s trip to the top of the St. Louis Arch in 5th grade made me anxious. First, there was the little futuristic pod thing you had to ride in that functioned like an elevator. And then I could feel the entire arch swaying once we got in to the look out area at the top. Too much. Every rope course I’ve ever been on has caused me to sweat profusely. My trip to the top of the Empire State Building in college made me nauseous. I do not like flying; yes, I’m married to a pilot. Yes, I’ve flown to multiple states, countries, and continents on a variety of planes year after year. It’s still not my favorite past-time. I took a double decker bus with gritted teeth and anti-emetics around winding mountain roads in the Andes to live at 10,000 feet above sea level for months where the only roads in and out were littered with graves to each side. I prayed more prayers on that bus than probably my whole life combined up to that point. I avoid roller coasters at all costs. I graciously refuse to ride them and proudly sit at the bottom holding all the things belonging to everyone who wants to be a fool and ride the crazy torture machineS (in case you’re wondering, I had a really terrible experience at the fair grounds in 6th grade and have no desire to relive anything slightly reminiscent of that nightmare which earned me the nickname “upchuck”). Yes, I have attempted to ride what you people describe as glorious, thrilling amusement park adventures multiple times since then. I’ve been to Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and Six Flags. It’s just not my thing. To really drive the point home with clarity — my husband (before he was my husband) told me he was taking me sky diving for our engagement. I almost broke up with him. No, I’m not kidding. We got into a huge fight about my anxiety-ridden refusal to ever go near a plane that had anything to do with sky diving (I don’t even really like flying remember).

So I sit here and think about all of that and then I laugh. Because, despite my fear, I’ve done all of those things. I’ve flown over the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans multiple times. I’ve resided in foreign countries for months at a time with no control over my transportation, my living arrangements, my food, or my showering habits. I’ve hiked peaks and ascended domes in the Rockies and the Andes. I’ve traversed the Grand Canyon top to bottom via switchbacks on foot. I’ve stood at the edge of Pike’s Peak and yelled to the heavens (squinting my eyes tightly in order not to see what was below). I’ve ridden the ski lift to the top of some of the best slopes in Whistler with my legs hanging loosely below…all in the name of haphazardly sliding down a mountain on something that looks like refined tree branches with two limb-like poles in my hands. Because there was something worth it on the other side. Whether it was the eternal fate of souls, a black diamond in my ski-bib pocket, or the comraderie of survival.

People keep telling me that I am strong. I’m honestly still trying to figure out why or what that even looks like. Here lately, I feel so incredibly weak. I feel so terrible at being a disciple of Jesus in seasons that make it hard to be light-hearted and fancy-free.

If I’m being honest, I feel like I’m standing butt naked with a piece of chicken-wire wrapped around me in a wide open space that’s blistery cold with a gritty hot wind that tears and burns my skin and chills my bones. You read that right; and yes, that’d be just about impossible at any given location coordinates on planet Earth.

The truth is….I love wide open spaces. I love warm winds. I love the first crisp breath of Autumn on my neck. I love chicken wire in the garden protecting things in fragile seasons while they grow. I even love the first hard freeze of winter that makes me shudder down in my bones and snuggle up under blankets by the fire with those I love.

On the other hand, the idea of public nudity — and especially under those described circumstances — makes me cringe at the cellular level. No, it’s not because I’m ashamed of my body – that’s another post for another day. You poor thing, I bet you didn’t see this blog post going here did you? Bear with me…Bare with me. Pun intended, comic relief…okay, so here we go:

I propose to you, that sometimes that is exactly what being brave feels like. This crazy thing called authenticity leads to the greatest refinement. There is something so terribly awkward and unnerving about the seasons of life that necessitate us rising up in bravery. We’re being asked to do something that our defense mechanisms, our desire for control, our pride, and our in-born default to save face beg us not to even entertain the thought of, much less do. We are exposed…our needs, our shortcomings, our fears. Often this occurs in our deepest sadness, our darkest season, our most vulnerable wounding, our pocket of too-muchness, and our wits’ end place of minimal fortitude.

And something within us says “rise up.” Spirit, rise up.

And you know what I’ve figured out? This ugly-beautiful process is how we know what we’re made of…this is when we know ourselves made right in Him. This is when we see spiritual order come to fruition because it’s the only possible thing that could help us carry that torch with our knees knocking together and our bones shuddering and our skin taking an over-zealous too-abrasive spa-treatment for the love of well who knows what on the other side.

And then, on the other side…

I come out on the other side…knowing. Knowing so confidently. And being steadied in my refinement. I come out knowing more of who He is, more of who He is in me, more of who He created me to be, more of what He has poured into me to pour out of me. When I own what I’m feeling, when I call it what it is, when I honestly describe my ugly flesh feelings and declare how they need to be brought under His beautiful, loving, grace-gifting authority instead of pretending like “everything is fine” and “we are fine” and “we are so fine we definitely aren’t experiencing any more refinement because we have arrived sanctified”…I am so freaking brave. You are so brave. And we can be brave together. When you feel like a temper tantrum or a meltdown but you bear down and rise up and call it what it is and call Heaven down because Hell only rages against that which threatens it….you are brave. You holding both things– the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter. You are so very brave. When you admit that you’re afraid to pray for something because you know you serve the God capable of answering that prayer and you don’t know what that would actually look like for you. When you sit with your Sisters and share your deepest darkest embarrass-your-momma thoughts instead of dressing them up in church lingo and sanctified words. You are brave. When you asked for the thing you knew you needed but really wished you didn’t have to ask for for and definitely not from that person. When you claimed a struggle that didn’t fit in any of the pretty boxes you thought all your issues would fit into by adulthood. You are braver than you know. When you do the thing you didn’t think you could do but knew He created you to walk through and reap from and bear fruit in. You are brave. When you bleed and ache and mourn and own it. You are brave. When you acknowledge that your flesh and your spirit are at war and you hate it and you so desperately want your spirit to lead and your body and soul to follow but you just can’t seem to walk it out that way, yet. You are brave.

When you lean in, when you press in, against all your flesh. You are so very brave.

In my humble opinion, our six-year-old is so brave; she is also sometimes a scaredy-cat but that’s okay because, well, she’s six, and I’m clearly a scaredy cat about some things at 5 times her age! She absolutely amazes me. And God uses parenting her to speak into the shadowy places of my heart that need a healing. We live in a neighborhood with multiple phases of newly constructed homes. New houses were going up behind ours last year, and dirt piled 12 or more feet high — just begging to be climbed. Our everything-pink-and-purple-loving, American-Girl doll obsessed, can-I-have-glitter-on-that-please, then five year old wanted to put on her rain boots and overalls and ascend “The Mud Mountain.” So of course, her daddy and I obliged. We walked through the neighborhood and stood in front of nature’s beckoning adventure in all its glory. She joyfully bounded up- practically skipping as she traversed the infamous Alabama clay-like dirt fulfilling her wildest five-year-old dreams of standing on top of the whole wide world. She got to the top, squealed with glee, proudly shouted to the world that she was “princess at the top of the mud mountain,” giggled, and danced.

And then it came time to come back down. From the look on her face, it was obviously that she had overlooked that part of this adventure until that very moment. Facing the ground below, a fall seemed almost unavoidable to her. She started panicking a little. And then a lot. Her daddy, knowing she was still perfectly safe, readied to catch her at any teetering step-turned-tumble. He began to talk to her in soft, soothing words giving her directions she could trust from the bottom. So like any little woman in a situation seemingly out of her control, she began spazzing out. And then, in all his Boyscout-mountaineering-daddy wisdom, he told her to turn side ways.

Turn sideways, sweetheart. Lean in to the mountain instead of away from it and side-step down like this.”

He paused and showed her by side stepping at the bottom of the dirt. My eyes filled with tears, swelled up and over my eyelids, and poured down my face.

He coached her all the way down, lovingly, patiently. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud she was of herself when she reached the bottom of that “great, big, huge mountain.” She ascended and descended a dozen more times that afternoon until I reminded my lovelies that it was time to go home and eat supper. Her boots were filled with that same unmistakable Alabama-red clay-like dirt. She’d earned her bravery badge and was taking plenty of particles of it home with her to prove it. Her hair was a frazzled mess. Her hands were stained-red (but not permanently). She was beaming. And I cried all the more. She thought I was crying those proud-momma tears we often have for our wee ones.

I cried mostly because in that moment it was as if Heaven opened above me, and I heard God himself say “Be brave, lean in, press in to Me.” You see, I have been right there, on the side of the mountain flailing about, floundering, flopping like a fish outta water, hopelessly gasping for air while grasping for a life preserver (yes, a total oxymoron). When things are hard, sometimes we absolutely freak out. Or maybe that’s just me?

Instead, the gentle, perfect loving voice of my Father says “Hey, Brave one, lean in. I got you up, I’ll get you down. But for your sake, please stop flailing about. Just lean in to Me.”

The more I lean, the more there is of Him. All those gifts, all those things on the other side that outweigh the cost like that crazy bus ride in the Andes for the salvation of souls. For so long, I believed the unspoken lie of “no more.” Friend, there is always more of Him to know, to experience, to hold, to breathe in, to lean into and possess. And it takes bravery to believe that because it means we might experience some momentary disappointment. It means the things I hope for might be delayed. It means I’m taking a risk. It means I’m pressing in with my authentic need to my community and my Savior readied for His refinement. What does being brave look like for you in this season? Let me encourage you to sit still with Him awhile. Practice side-stepping. Find your tribe. Pow-wow together in that safe, nurturing, judgment free zone. We aren’t making room to just perpetuate the flesh, but call to call things what they are, process it together, and keep moving through it. I know when I sit on Kailey’s couch I can literally word vomit all my not-so-cleaned-up thoughts and my not-so-beautiful-rather-disparing needs. And she will sit in it with me. And pray me through it.

And He always delivers more goodness than my storehouses can hold. His track record is perfect. And His loving-kindness, His crazy-wild mercy-giving exhilarating adventure makes me so dance-like-David-wild, so free, so Brave. There are more mud mountains going up in the next phase of our neighborhood; I think my feet need to stand atop some dirt today and lean in the whole way down.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG

Your comments make my day!