Seth Godin once said in an interview, “Books are like souvenirs of ideas.”
As I sit here, befuddled about what my fingers should talk about next, I look around the room, and sure enough, my eyes don’t land on books. They land on ideas.
The current idea floating around in my mind has something to do with courage. Something to do with being brave. Something around this concept that courage, like tennis, requires practice to be good. You can’t come out the gate and explode with a mass of impactful courage, just like you can’t pick up a racquet and be good overnight. No, you have to pick up the racquet every day, and over time, you start to get better at the game.
Or maybe practicing courage is like practicing law, or practicing medicine. They say it’s a practice, because the truth is, as much as they’re supposed to be experts, they don’t really know how the surgery or the lawsuit is going to turn out. By hiring them, you’re just trying to buy the best bet. You’re trying to increase your odds of success, of winning, of beating a disease.
But it’s still all a gamble in the end.
So is courage. So are little acts of bravery. You don’t know that you’re going to succeed, and you don’t know that you’re not going to fall flat on your face. But you do know you have to try. You do know that the best chance of winning lies in effort, and that if you don’t try, you definitely lose.
I spoke on failure at a Christian conference this past weekend. In my talk, I told a story that, I think, sounds weird. I told a story about how my husband and I were struggling to buy groceries, so when he found a bag of canned goods at my dad’s car wash, he brought them home. It was strange, eating food that someone else had bought, and left behind, discarded. I mean, that’s what homeless people do—eat food that’s been discarded. But we were being stewards—good stewards—of the things we had been given. And in faith, we felt like the found canned goods were a gift, and it was our duty to practice stewardship with them.
But also in that story, was a kind-crazy, people-don’t-talk-about-this-stuff element of God being there, taking care of us. Stewarding us. Knowing we had tied our knot and were hanging on at the end of our rope, He was there, making sure we were ok.
I kinda think He liked that. I know I like it when someone comes to me for help. I like helping. And I kinda think God does, too. I think that maybe, He puts these crazy circumstances in our paths to send us running to Him. When a friend comes to me and asks for help, I normally want to stop and have coffee. I like the fellowship and engagement and connection that occurs. And God probably does, too. We come running for help and He says, “Sure! Let’s sit down and chat about that! Do you want cream or sugar?”
And, once again humbled, but still desirous of my right to ask for what I want, I request a Splenda and He makes it appear.
God laughs at me. “I offer you cream or sugar, and you still want a Splenda.” He shakes His head, and looks at me. “You get it, don’t you? You know I’ll work it out. You know you won’t get the Splenda every time…”
And here, I interrupt God. “But I’ll still choose to be completely delighted with cream and sugar, if I can’t have the Splenda. I’m just not going to to NOT ask.”
God chuckles and His eyes twinkle. He is delighted. He is delighted with my adventurous brain, and my newfangled ideas, and my whimsical notions. Sometimes I think He wants me to help other people have newfangled ideas and whimsical notions, because He knows this world has a pretty discouraging way of telling brave people that they can’t do something. That they’re not good enough. That He won’t have their back.
When I spoke at this conference this past weekend, my friend Ellen Parker taught out of Deuteronomy. She challenged us: what does it look like to live loved? She talked about the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, because they didn’t have the courage to trust. They chose fear over love.
Love chooses courage. Love chooses little acts of bravery.
So, what is brave for you? What would be the smallest brave thing you could do today? It might mean leaving your phone in the other room during dinner, or it might mean cooking dinner. It might be going to the gym, or it might be choosing to battle that disorder and eat the next bite on your plate. It might mean saying I love you, or it might mean saying I’m sorry. It might mean hitting the forgiveness reset button, one more time. It might mean letting go, it might mean hanging on. It might mean sending a text, or shutting down a thought, or setting a boundary.
Here’s the best formula I can give you for practicing courage: make a list of all the things you COULD do. None of them will be easy, or you already would have done them. Make a list of the things that feel heavy with fear or anxiety. Then, pick the tiniest, easiest thing from that list, and do that.
Whatever it is, it’s going to be hard. And that probably means it will be right.