(So…this is where I write a normal post and then at the end decide to take a plunge. My first Slow Word Video is embedded in the bottom. This is where brave gets real. )
We stood in line for the ferry in Vernazza, Cinque Terre and watched them jump. I held my breath and looked away. Andrew took pictures.
It was 90 degrees and perfect. No wind. No waves. Lagoon-like green water. I watched them walk to the edge and either jump or turn back. Sometimes they squealed as they dropped. Their brave came out of joy.
Heights are not my friend. Or airplanes. Or really anything up high. The last two summers I’ve had panic attacks hanging onto a wall while rock climbing outdoors with my family. Truth be told we only climb about 30 feet at one stretch. I was completely secure in a harness from a rope which could hold 200 more pounds. I had done this fifty times before. But these two times I wasn’t in a climbing gym. This time I could see 200 feet down into the valley and into the lake below. My brain knew I was secure but my heart was positive I would feel the plunge of 230 gravity laden feet. I begged very quietly and tearfully to come down and then whispered in my husband’s ear: “No more climbing. Again. Ever.” I’ve decided I’m a land animal.
This last January I prayed for a word for 2016 and BRAVE was placed in my hand. It felt like a big stretch, possibly even a message from the Lord. BRAVE surprised me. I wasn’t searching for it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted it. But every time I listened to the word, my breath caught with adrenaline. So I named a Pinterest board BRAVE and began gathering images and quotes. (Do you do this too? Am I the only one?) It was on the stage of Pinterest I explored BRAVE and began to listen to the Lord’s invitation to inch my toes forward on the rock.
I stayed in the shallows at first: a bright coral striped rug in a white living room, a National Geographic black and white of a woman in a birthing tub, the confidence of wearing a great ethnic necklace. Later it got real and I dove deeper. I admitted to my need for great swaths of silence and spent much of the year sitting and listening and doing centering prayer.
Then came the internal surgery. I confronted my people pleasing and the way I was shrinking before the noisy opinions of my inner critic. I stared at my perfectionism and witnessed its stranglehold. Finally, I sat down into the basis for my true identity: “Define yourself as one radically loved by God. This is your true self. Every other identity is an illusion” (Brendan Manning.) It was also on that Pinterest board where I documented the healing of God in quiet ways, ways only He and I would know. By July I was ready for BRAVE. I was listening to where I come alive, to my love of writing and the nuclear magic that occurs when words are spliced up against each other. I began writing poetry again.
About three weeks ago I witnessed a friend’s first live facebook and her beautiful brave. Apparently Ashley didn’t know live meant LIVE and there was a moment of shock as she discovered an audience on the other side of her iphone screen. She was precious and articulate and passionate and imperfect. Unknowingly, she became my courage guru. I jumped off that high rock right after her first vulnerable, beautiful LIVE. My sister had been begging me to do some videos of lectio divina for her. She’s an auditory learner. She wanted them unpolished and imperfect and raw. I could do imperfect, I thought. She’s a busy mom with a nonprofit and craved stillness and time in the word which fit into her busy life. I’d never done video and secretly cringe whenever I hear my own voice. But my life’s focus is to position people in the presence of God for transformation. This fit but was over my growing edge. Ashley’s BRAVE gave me permission for my BRAVE. After I watched her first LIVE, I promptly made a video and sent it to my people. My three closest people. The next night I made another and sent it to a few more. Fast forward three weeks later and we’re in completely new territory. I’m saying yes both to imperfect and to God’s invitation in what feels like a crazy back flip.
Anne Halle, one of the professors from my spiritual direction certificate program, taught us on how to push out our growing edges. “You have an anxiety boundary,” she explained to us drawing a circle. “Push outside of your comfort zone in an extreme way and your anxiety will scream. Very likely you’ll never try again. But,” she said, “if you go to the edge of your comfort zone and dab your toe in the water WITH the Presence of God, you’ll continue to grow within the safety of God’s love.” Small steps will eventually mean big growth she assured us. But here’s the kicker and here’s what haunted me afterwards: if we don’t continue to push out of our comfort zone in small ways, we’ll eventually have more anxiety making smaller moves. Our circle of comfort will collapse inwards. It will take less to give us more anxiety.
I love what our professor said, we were not created to push out our growing edges alone. We do it in community with the Presence of God. And this is the necessary partnership where my BRAVE can edge up to the rock and jump. Get ready. Get set. Here we go. Use my small imperfect brave and say yes to yours!
I’m calling it the Slow Word Movement. Stay tuned in the next few weeks, this movement of stillness in the Word will have a landing page and a way to receive these weekly videos by email. Come join me on the porch for a bit of time in God’s Presence and then share what you hear in the comments: