Three years ago, I chose one word for the first time, to guide me through my year – my first in Luxembourg – and help me live a better life. I chose Brave. I thought and wrote about courage so much that year (you can find all the bravery files here if you’re interested.
I learnt that bravery didn’t feel very strong in the moment. Instead, it felt like vulnerability. It felt like being afraid but doing it anyway.
I learnt that courage was birthed in the small moments, in the hundred daily decisions to chose the brave route instead of the one ruled by fear. That practise, that exercising of my courage muscle, it made me strong without me noticing, until the moment one big fear was realised and I learnt how to be brave when that feels impossible.
Maybe the biggest thing I learnt though, is how much fear controls my life. I hadn’t noticed it until then, but once my focus was well and truly on following the path of courage, all these crossroads started appearing.
I decide not to try something new? Fear of the unknown stands in my way. I decide not to go to that event because I don’t know anyone? Fear of being alone, of not being liked, rears it’s head. I try to convince myself I don’t really care enough about that project or role? It’s fear of failure whispering lies. I try on the fourth outfit of the morning before going out? Fear of being thought unattractive leers back at me from the mirror. I decide not to go that mother’s group this week? It’s fear of being judged for my parenting decisions that is stopping me.
When I chose that one word for the year, I thought I would have it figured out by December. I’d be fearless, unswayed by the whispers in my head, ready to stride out and face every foe head on.
The thing is, fear still threatens me most days. I’m scared of not being a good enough mother to Kaya. I’m scared that in this liminal season, Rasmus and I will make the wrong decision about the way forward. I’m scared that I’ll never get back into the kind of work I would love. I’m scared of getting the work but then not being any good at it.
I do, though, have three years of practice under my belt. Three years of recognising that so much of fear’s power over me is fictitious, like a bird puffed up against the cold. I’ve learnt I don’t have to give in, that I will survive even when it feels hard. And more than survive, that I can thrive in the face of fear!
I practice speaking truth to myself instead. I tell myself I am a good mama, I am doing my best and my best is enough for her. I tell myself that our little family will find the right path forward, with the Spirit and so many wise friends as our guides. And our own collected wisdom and intuition. And I tell myself that one day the season will shift again and I’ll find work that I love, where I can make a difference.
There’s a beautiful verse in the bible that I love, which says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Another translation puts that last part as being “bold and loving and sensible.”
Here’s what I am striving to be these days: bold, loving and sensible.
Bold, because I’m learning that a life that includes some risks taken is a richer one. A life which is led by passion and purpose and conviction is better able to look fear in the face and choose to act anyway.
Loving, because it’s only perfect love that ultimately drives out fear. So I open myself up to receive the divine love again, and commit to loving others, certain that there is truth and so much grace to be found there.
And sensible. Because fear drives me kinda crazy. Like those magic mirror halls at the fairground, it skews everything wonky, plays with my mind until I can’t see clearly. But the fears are paper tigers. A bit of sense will shrink them back down to size.
A friend asked me this week, “I know you have faith in God, do you have faith in yourself too?” And the answer was “More and more.” And I think that faith is growing as I give up fear and instead receive these better gifts, of courage and of love and of a sound mind.
What would you do this day if you decided not to be controlled by fear? How would you life be different?
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life
– Dawna Markova
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as a seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to be as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
I’m hoping to write my way through Lent this year, in the hopes it will help me focus in this baby-mama season of my life. Our church is starting a series on “Giving It Up” on all the unhelpful things in our lives we should drop, in order to embrace a renewed wholeness. I’m taking my inspiration from that theme, to write my way through some of the ways I want to make a fresh beginning this Lent.