“Before I knew you, I thought brave was not being afraid. You've taught me that bravery is being terrified and doing it anyway” – Laurell K. Hamilton
What constitutes bravery to you? Is it showing fearlessness? Heroism? Dauntlessness?
What I’ve learned is that bravery doesn’t mean going into a battle, an argument, a calling, etc. without fear. It’s not about having full confidence in yourself. Bravery’s not even reliant on having supernatural/special abilities that lend you aid as you approach the obstacle in front of you. Bravery is showing mental and moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty. As Hamilton says, it’s about “being terrified and doing it anyway.” Bravery is having that hard conversation with your roommate even if you’re afraid of the repercussions. It’s going to college, leaving your parents behind for maybe the first time in your life to live on your own. It’s trusting God with your future when you have no idea what it will look like. Bravery isn’t fearlessness, bravery is facing your fears head on with full confidence that God is walking beside you with every step you take.
When I was in high school, I had my entire future mapped out, full of confidence that I was doing what God had called me to do and living to my fullest potential. But I came to college, suffered from severe anxiety, dealt with an eating disorder, had friends that were discouraging and judgmental when I didn’t follow their status quo, and hated the major I was so confident in studying. My “calling” was crumbling in my hands and I spiraled. Why? Because I had faith in myself, not God. I had planned my future out by myself, thinking that by doing good, I was doing what God had called me to do. I was fearless and self-assured until things started to fall apart.
Did that mean I was brave? Yes, and no. I was brave because I didn’t give up. I was terrified of not knowing, of the what ifs that ran through my head – what if I can’t get a job? What if I have to move back in with my parents forever? What if I’ve been doing life all wrong this whole time? But I didn’t let those what ifs control me. I fought, I kept asking God for guidance, and I kept pushing forward until I found victory from my eating disorder and anxiety, until I found supportive and accepting community, until I found a degree that I actually enjoyed pursuing. At the same time, I doubted that God would call me to something more. I was afraid of what my future would look like, and that alone keeps me from calling the way I lived “bravery.”
If you flip through my college journals, you’ll find page after page of me asking God why he was stonewalling me, why I couldn’t get an answer from him. To this day four years later, I still couldn’t tell you with certainty what it is I’m called to do, but as Bob said a couple weeks ago – that doesn’t mean that I’m not callable. That just means that I’m in a place of “not yet.” Over time, I’ve learned to find peace with God’s answer of “not yet.” He hasn’t revealed my calling to me yet, but He tells me that it’s coming soon and that I should have patience. It’s in that place where I have found true bravery – not in giving my all towards a future I have planned out perfectly but trusting that God will reveal in His own timing what I’m to do in the next chapter of my life. That peace, in a world that says I need to know, is how bravery manifests itself in my life right now.
Despite the constant questioning of what will I do next, I can say “I don’t know” with an assurance that one day I will. I’m still afraid of the constant repeating of the phrase “I don’t know” – I hate not knowing. I wanted God to tell me four years ago what I was supposed to be doing with the rest of my life, not chase after him begging to know what the next step is.
The other day someone told me that as they were praying for me, they saw a lighthouse. That the light was guiding me forward, but I could only see what was right in front of me as I followed the beam – and that’s how I’ve been living lately. Stepping forward, one step at a time, following this light that’s leading me to an unknown destination. In Psalm 16, David says “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” A joyful heart in a life of unknowns is the bravest you can be. Rejoice – God will not abandon you. He will come to you, He will call you, and He will set your path before you when the time is right.
Author | Emma Whitmer