The Call to Courage

What comes to mind when you think of bravery?

Heroes, firemen, warriors, soldiers marching into war?  That’s what I think of, but here’s the thing...

God calls us all to be strong and courageous.

He calls us as women too. We are called to be brave as wives, friends, moms, daughters, sisters.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9

While we’re not all being asked to scale burning buildings or march into war, we are asked (commanded really) to do something brave. So how do we do that as women? As wives, moms, daughters, and friends?

Photo Credit: The House of Belonging

Photo Credit: The House of Belonging

Go spend thirty minutes in a coffee shop, watching and listening to the interactions and conversations around you and you’ll start to see one way that we can all be brave. At first glance it may look like just a bunch of friends meeting for coffee, but in this busy, rushed life, there is often times much more to why people choose to spend an hour in a coffee shop. Look a little closer and you’ll see a room full of people really connecting over a steamy cup of coffee and a pastry. And each of these connections is based on someone in the room having a story to tell and someone who needs to hear it.

We've talked before about being brave enough to tell your story. But really living courageously goes one step farther than that.  Living courageously means looking for opportunities to really make those connections with the people God puts in our lives. It’s not just telling your story, but really relating to the person sitting across from us where they are in their story.

Just this past week, I had the honor of hosting a get together in my home. In the spirit of living up to my promise of hospitality, my “one little word” for 2015, I volunteered for a last minute going away party for one of the founding members of our Bible study group. I was reminded of the beauty of these brave connections as several women from my Bible study group gathered in my kitchen eating baked treats and sipping coffee. Our group is made up of a very diverse group of women, covering a broad spectrum of ages, economic status, and education and producing so many beautiful and unexpected friendships. Each of these precious women have their own stories to tell and have not only invited one another in to be part of it but have jumped at the chance to be a part of each others. We celebrate with joy the births of new children in the same week we attend funerals and cry with the ones that are laying to rest someone dear. We've spent time together supporting each other through broken relationships, grief, financial strains, and trials of motherhood. Behind each of the heartfelt hugs, tears, and belly-aching laughter is a beautiful bravery that is strengthened through God-designed relationships and the courage to let people in. These women have taught me what it means to be strong and courageous in daily living.

Rather than going off to battle or scaling the side of a burning building, being brave and courageous often means just being willing to be vulnerable with the people in our lives. We’re being courageous when we invite that hurting friend over for coffee and really let our guard down to relate to them in their pain. We’re strong when we face trials and allow ourselves to feel all of the emotions that come and let them draw us closer to God. We’re brave by being ourselves, completely.

We are strong when we confidently trust that each and every experience we go through is part of God preparing us for the good works He has planned for us to do.

Because by God’s saving grace alone, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

We are courageous when we leap at the chance to walk with someone through difficult circumstances because we know God can work through us to bring them comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

It’s uncomfortable at times to relive parts of our story that were painful to us. It’s so much easier to offer the cliche response. It’s scary to dig down and reach those emotions again. But it’s brave and it’s what we are commanded to do. And it makes all the difference.

Those vulnerable, imperfect parts of our story are often times the perfect stepping stones God is going to use to do some amazing things through our stories. Through the bravery of being vulnerable comes the opportunity for God’s provision to come pouring down.

Photo Credit: Risen Apparel

Photo Credit: Risen Apparel

My struggle with infertility and heart shattering miscarriage exposed my breaking points. But only at my point of breaking was I really ready and in need of those brave connections. Only then could I truly appreciate and see that there were people placed in my path, by a God that loves me, to carry me through those really dark times. Those brave people in my life allowed me to see God working everywhere. The heavenly comfort and provision that flowed through a handful of courageous people made that verse in Corinthians come to life, and give me life. There were truly breaking points for me, critical moments in which I was shattering. But when I think back to those critical moments, it’s not the pain of the circumstances that stands out in my mind but rather the people that were there to walk with me through it. There were a handful of precious people that had the courage to step out of traditional roles and connect with me by facing their own rawness and vulnerability in their own stories. Each time, that connection proved to be the vehicle God used to surround me with His comfort, peace and hope.

There was the nurse that was with me during the devastation of finding no more heartbeat after several weeks of a pregnancy that was never showing signs of being viable. I so clearly remember her stepping bravely out of her role as my nurse. She just hugged me and cried with me, and then she told me her story of struggling to start her family and the miscarriages she had experienced. She understood my pain.

As I faced the miscarriage that was shattering me from the inside out and shaking my faith to the core, there was my doctor who was me in my brokenness. As I was being prepped for surgery, I had to let go of my heartbroken husband and found myself being wheeled down a hallway into the loneliest moment of my life. In that moment of true despair, my doctor hugged me and with tears in his eyes said “I will be with you through every step of this. I know how bad this heartbreak hurts. Not because I’m a doctor but because I've been through this myself.” And he told me his story. He courageously stepped out of the role of my doctor and made a connection that brought me more comfort that I can explain. I wasn't alone.

In the days following the D&C procedure, God allowed me to completely shatter. I didn't have the strength to keep it together and put on the brave face anymore. I was broken, completely, from the inside out. But in that broken state, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit connect with me with a power I have never felt before, but a connection I recognized as the comfort I had felt through the nurse and doctor. With that comfort also came the whispers of His promises of love and grace and purpose. I was still broken, but in that brokenness realized I was being allowed to go through something so heartbreaking so my faith could grow and I could reach out to others that would come after me. The verse came to life... “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Cor. 1:4 (MSG) My heartbreak allowed me to experience God’s comforting love, first hand – through His Spirit and by those brave souls He put in my path at critical times, so that I can provide comfort to others.

Though I had experienced the firsthand comfort of the spirit, I still had to walk through the process of grieving. And in my depths of grief and the self-reflection and pity that comes along with that, came the friend who was put in my path to usher me into the next phase of my story. While I was still recovering from the failed pregnancy and preparing myself for another round, I ran into an acquaintance in the grocery store. I had my brave face on, but was just beginning to put the pieces back together. A genuine hug and “how are you?” from this friend was all it took to have me crying in the checkout aisle. After filling her in on the miscarriage and plan to move forward, she replied not with the expected cliche responses but with a reply that could have only come from bravely stepping out of her comfort zone and into her role as God's vessel. She said “well, don’t you think you’re being a little bit selfish about this?”  And then she hugged me... and with tears springing up in her eyes said, “sweetie, I've been through this too and the biggest thing I learned was that if God has confirmed this desire in your heart as being in line with His will, then it’s all about timing and it’s no longer about you. It’s about this precious child that you will have one day. It’s about their life starting at the perfect time for the life God has planned for them to live. Just rest in His grace and trust in His timing, and let me know when the baby shower is.” Yet again, there was that brave connection made, that uncomfortable moment, where God moved and ushered me into the next phase of the journey. And He used a friend, in a grocery store, to do it. She gave me hope.

Comfort, Companionship, and Hope... Those were the gifts of provision given to me through those brave connections. Through that nurse, doctor and friend being willing to recount their painful stories and relate to me in mine, God provided and guided and taught. He gave us not only the blessing of our long-awaited baby girl, but he blessed us with encounters with Himself through those brave souls that were willing to be used for Him. In the ashes of shattered dreams and heartbreak, we come face to face with His complete power, hope and provision and begin to understand His love.

Your breaking point may not be through infertility, but everyone experiences pain and hurt at some point in their lives. Financial despair, broken friendships, a diagnosis, moving to a new city and finding yourself completely alone. Regardless of what the circumstances of your event are, there is a story being written in it that gives you the chance to be brave. So as women, moms, wives, friends, daughters and sisters... we live strong and courageous by telling our story when a friend needs to hear it. There will be a day that you’re sitting in a coffee shop or at your kitchen table with someone that will hang on to every word you say because they are the exact words they are longing to hear in their moment of need.

So how do we live bravely? By remaining sensitive to the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding us. When you find that passion, that thing that God is leading you into and you just can’t walk away from, and it scares you just a little... you just may be onto something brave. When you are in a conversation and feel a nudge to let down your guard and share some of your story... you may just be onto something brave. When you wake up in the middle of the night with someone on your heart and you decide to send them a message to let them know you are thinking about them... you may just be onto something brave. I can tell you as someone who has been on both sides of that moment of brave connection... it matters. God moves when we are courageous enough to be vulnerable.