You Make Me Brave

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Strength and weakness, bravery and cowardice: both are topics I have written on before, yet both seem to orbit back around as major themes of my life. Sometimes I wonder if I am to honest about when I am scared, nervous, or feeling weak. I was told last week that I was. Yet, still I wonder, should we have to hide the fact that we feel vulnerable? Should we have to be embarrassed that we are scared or nervous or feel weak? Isn’t bravery the ability to forge ahead even when you do not want to? Thus does admitting that you are scared, nervous, or weak cause for pause or does the inability to move forward when life calls you to the real cause for pause and questioning? I think it is the latter. 

Often, I feel the last 11 years of my life has been one giant theme of embracing bravery while feeling scared out of my mind. From going to college and working at a church, to leaving everything I have ever known to move to the south. Time after time, I had the feeling God was asking me to face my fear and put my self out there. Time and time again, I needed to be brave and vulnerable when all I wanted to do was run and hide. God makes us brave. I am convinced of that. I am not brave nor am I strong. I daily want to run and hide; go back to the familiar and comfortable. Yet, through the grace of God I keep walking one step at a time. 

Hebrews 11 say’s “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” I have no idea where God is leading me and that makes me nervous, scared, and helpless…but onward I go. Because He makes us brave. Sure, I have plans. Lot’s of them, actually. But “in their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” That fact is why I’m convinced God gives us just enough courage to take one step forward. Then just enough strength to take another step forward. That is the journey of faith: one step in the right direction at a time. 

In my pastoral ministry, I far to often encounter folks that are simply frozen in their fear and indecision. People prefer the predictability of their hell rather than stepping out in faith into something unknown… even something that may be amazing. That makes me sad. I think that is why I am usually a fan of people making bold and audacious moves in life. You love that area of the world? Move there. You want to start a new business, but it may bankrupt you? No risk, no reward. You want to pursue that relationship with everything you have even though it may blow up in your face? Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all. Courage is taking one step forward in the midst of fear and uncertainty and I would err on the side of bold rather than safe moves. 

Still, facing fear and stepping out is really hard and only when we realize that we are loved by God, whether weak or strong, brave or cowardly, a failure or a success, can we take that one step in our journey of faith. We must believe at the core of our life that what Brennan Manning says is true: “my deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ & I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Only than can we step forward. Only then can we be brave. Only then can we have the assurance that even if we fail, we are loved. God makes us brave. 

So here’s to taking one more step forward… not knowing where I am going and scared out of my mind. Will you join? 

Also, this song has been a great encouragement to me lately. Especially the bridge:

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Fantastic @ttfpodcast interview with @alanhirsch and @debrahirsch @seedbed #newroom14
Fantastic @ttfpodcast interview with @alanhirsch and @debrahirsch @seedbed #newroom14

Fantastic @ttfpodcast interview with @alanhirsch and @debrahirsch @seedbed #newroom14

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The crucial issue (for growth) is not the central theme of the strategy (for the church). The crucial question is whether the congregation, including the configuration of the paid staff, is organized to be supportive of a clearly defined and widely supported central strategy.
- Lyle Schaller, from Church Unique by Will Mancini
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Vulnerability Pt 2: Letting Yourself Be Known

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I think the defining characteristics of being a closed person are numbness and denial. When you are numb you don’t feel anything and when you feel nothing, you never get hurt. And even if you do get hurt, you deny it because that would mean people can in fact affect the way you live your life. I lived that way for almost two years. The conversation went like this: John Q would say something hurtful, only to realize it a few moments later and apologize. I would not acknowledge the apparent wound and shrug it off as if John Q could not possibly hurt me with mere words, only to further alienate myself from John Q because of my inability to admit hurt. Numbness and denial work as a potent concoction to allow you to not feel hurt with the unfortunate side affect of feeling nothing, ever. Thus, when you want to feel joy or love or peace, you can’t because you are numb. Thus, one legitimately asks the question if you are actually alive or if you are simply a zombie?

When I came to the place of realizing I was a zombie, I knew I needed to tear down my carefully placed wall of protection, reject the numbness and finally admit that I was a weak and broken person who needs Jesus and others. I realized I needed to reveal myself to Jesus who already saw me as I was and to my community that wanted to know the real me; but that is difficult. Yet, after several years, one helpful exercise has come forward and I would like to pass that on to you. The exercise that has helped me let myself be known to others is to simply be honest. If someone hurts me, I tell them. If I prefer something, I let that be known. If something is wonderful or terrible, I try my best to let that be known in a socially acceptable way. 

As I have learned simply to be honest, it has allowed me to let others know me as well as creating more than a few awkward conversations and moments. I am not going to lie and say that “just being honest” is easy because it is not. After almost 7 years, it is still not easy. You need a good sense of how you are feeling as well as the social astuteness to know what to say and when to say it. You also need to learn to be brutally honest with yourself because self-deception is real. We are very good at telling ourselves something is not important when it really is and this is why we must invite Jesus into our lives to be the ultimate truth teller. 

Letting yourself be known begins with honesty with others and with ourselves. We need Jesus to be the leader of this process. When we begin, we will experience pain, but the fruit will be a level of vulnerability that allows you to truly be known by God, yourself, and others. It is worth the pain. In part three, I will give some very practical tools in ways to go even deeper in vulnerability. 

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