Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Choose one: The choice of courage and joy

You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you can't choose both. - Brene Brown

My loving father did something silly this year. He gave me a Disney greeting card for my birthday. Not only was it Disney, it played music. A Celtic reel blared at me, as Merida from the animated film "Brave" stared at me, spirited with flaming red hair. "You can't get that for her," my mom told him. "Yes, I can! This is just like Keturah, except her hair is brown not red."

After the music wore off, and more accurately, after the shock that my dad purchased a birthday card featuring a children's movie heroine for my 30th birthday, I read the inscription. Oh. So that's why you chose it. It was actually one of the best (non cheesy) Hallmark tomes I've ever read. I still have the card, music and all.

The lines read about being brave, spirited, and joyful just being myself. Me? This terribly insecure girl who is trying to fit into 30? Who recently cried to her spiritual mentor about how she felt 15-years-old sometimes?

Sometimes I get weary of all the saccharine, almost ingratiating "feel good" quotes out there, at which time I want to retaliate with "Do you really live in this world or are you from some world that believes in unicorns and world peace?"

Then I see things like this Brown's bracing words, and all I can think is, we don't need more Winston Churchills, King George the VIs, Corrie ten Booms, or Dietrich Bonhoeffers, although that would certainly be beneficial. We need more regular everyday people choosing courage over comfort.

To quote Schaeffer: " History indicates that at a certain point of economic breakdown people cease being concerned with individual liberties and are ready to accept regimentation. The danger is obviously even greater when the two main values so many people have are personal peace and affluence."

I don't know why I am writing this around the winter holiday season. But it somehow seems fitting in many ways. Perhaps it is the bracing fact that 2014 faces us in a first world culture full of extravagancies and selfishness, but holds the potential to be a year full of brave and courageous moments. Perhaps this is the year you can and will live true to yourself. Perhaps your bravery is facing the pain of old memories or recent hurts. Maybe it is to forgive. Maybe it is to hope again. Maybe it is simply looking at who you really are in Christ and believing it is true, no matter how many years you've believed your identity was in your marriage, divorce, or singleness; your family, friends, and neighbors; the six-figure paycheck that pays for the designer label clothes and chic flat; the three-figure paycheck that barely buys groceries and pays rent; the ugliness of regrets; the pain of rejection; not fitting, not caring, not knowing. It is not hiding your loneliness, or stuffing your pain into the deepest recesses of your life-roughened heart.

Courage isn't a bucket list filled with nouns. It is lowering your shoulders, a daily act to be your real self, love Christ and people. It's discovering what real love is. In its simplest it is stepping out of the valley that has defined you and discovering who you really are in Christ. You realize that these things are all gifts and lessons, not identities. And as you do that, you begin to walk through your pain. For, you cannot reach the top of the mountain if you never step into the fog and make your way up. And in this courage, healing will come, and joy will flood your heart. Hope will sing. Love will dance. Life will matter.

This isn't some positivity quote. This is truth, this is life, and this has been my journey up the mountain this past year: newness of life. Because the only thing stronger than fear is hope, and the only thing stronger than pain is love.

Hope again, and don't let it die.  Trust. He will come for you and set you free.

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