Friday, October 30, 2015

What does it mean to be brave?

I've been reading Annie Downs' book "Let's All Be Brave" these days. It is taking me a while to get through it (I've been at it since March), because at the end of each chapter I have to wipe away my tears and work on believing the truth Annie lays down. It's exhausting, but I love it. 

I've talked to a lot of people recently about being brave, people who have a lot more experience at being brave than I do. I wanted to hear that things got easier. That as they learned to trust God more, it didn't seem so scary or hard. But everyone I talked to, without exception, told me that it is always hard and even trusting God doesn't stop it from being a leap of faith. If it were easy, making the step wouldn't be brave; it would be the easy next step. 

There's a lot of talk in the media these days about what it means to be a brave. Sometimes, they call it "being a hero." We attribute things like courage and strength to this title; usually, there is so much more that goes in to making a hero. 

I was talking to my dad the other day about life and things, and of course, the shooting in Oregon came up in our conversation. We took turns talking, willing to admit when the conversation was out of our depths. In the face of such tragedy, sometimes the only thing we can agree on is that it was horrible and how much the families who lost loved ones must be hurting. 

Some reports of the shooting say that the gunman was targeting Christians. It's hard when Christians overseas are meeting their death out of love for Christ; it is a completely different experience when it is happening in my country, a land that sings the song of religious freedom for all. 

It's been almost a month since the shooting, but I still think about it. I work at a university. We've had police on campus after a bomb threat (that turned out to be a false alarm, thank God) so the thought of a school shooting tends to be on my mind more than it was before. More than I want it to be. I think about what I would do in an active shooter situation. It scares me to have to think that way, but I know I would have to be brave for my students even if I wanted to curl in a ball under my desk and not engage. 

One thing that my dad said in our conversation has been on a loop in my brain for the last month. 
"You know the bravest person in all of this? The second person who was shot. They knew what was coming when they answered how they believed. And they said it anyway. That's bravery." 

Being brave is hard. It never stops being hard. Making brave choices can change your life. 

This is another day, O Lord. 
I know not what it will bring forth, 
But make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, 
and give me the Spirit of Jesus. 
Book of Common Prayer