1. Adjective: Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage
2. Verb: Endure or face unpleasant conditions or behaviour, without showing fear
On several occasions over the past few months, the word ‘brave’ has emerged – in a series of messages, as a descriptor of my response to situations, in song lyrics; it appears this concept of bravery is everywhere.
To be honest, I had never given much thought to bravery. The general definition I would have provided is to not be afraid, or to do something without fear. As it has appeared numerous times in recent days however, I decided it was worth giving a bit more consideration… Starting with the real definition.
Upon considering the actual definition, I have discovered, or been reminded, that it does not mean to face things without fear, but in spite of fear. I hadn’t understood that even when you couldn’t choose whether or not you went through something, you could choose your stance.
I have long known that even when you can’t control the circumstance, you can choose your attitude – something that I feel is similar to your stance, although not the same. Stance resonates more strongly, and I believe this concept of bravery is linked to one’s stance.
In life, we often do not get to choose the storms we face. Sure, some are of our own making, some are the results of the broken humanity of which we are a part, and some are just the ebbs and flows of life. Challenges are inevitable. What I can choose is to either accept them with grace, or accept them begrudgingly (choices of attitude); I can also choose whether I submit to the process, or whether I fight the process (stance).
When we choose to stand up, to engage the process, that is bravery. To actively participate in the process, not passively ride it out. To choose to go ahead, when you know it won’t be easy, and at times it may not even make sense, and yet in the midst of this, to trust it will be worth the pain.
The question emerges, do we face the pain and fear head on, or do we fight the pain? I have heard that the best way to reduce pain is to actually lean in to it. Contrary to our natural inclinations to run from or pull away from the pain, leaning in is to allow it to do it’s work. The pain is able to give birth to something, to bring healing. To fight this pain is to hold back, to increase the tension that is faced, and to resist a natural, and inevitable, life bringing process.
There is a song with a lyric “you make me brave, you call me out beyond the shore into the waves” (Brave – Bethel). I am reminded, when I hear this, of Peter, who, in the midst of the storm, had the courage to face the fear an the uncertainty, and walk on the water:
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”(Matthew 14:24-33 MSG)
We, like Peter, are invited into the storm – and in that moment we are marked, we are changed. Our faith, at times, may falter and waiver, but we have a Saviour who does not hesitate to rescue us. Though our faith may fail us, we have still chosen to step out and embrace the pain or fear; to walk on the water. This is to be brave.
Bravery changes us, but not only us, it changes others. Our challenge, our storm, rarely affects only us individually. There are people with us, in our boat; there are onlookers on the shore who see what we are in the midst of; and our courage, our bravery, has the ability to impact them. When we choose to face the fear head on, those who are with us see the incredible love and rescue of this Heavenly Father who invites us to walk with Him, and picks us up should we start to lose our courage.
The disciples, those who had walked with Jesus, after witnessing this event, worshipped him. They had a revelation of Him as God’s Son, because of what they saw. Like the disciples, those in our “boats” will also see the power of God at work as we step out, and they too will be drawn to worship Him.
May we ever choose to step out bravely in the storms of life, confident that our Father is right beside us, and that He will enable us to stand on top of the very storm that threatened to drown us.