To be brave is not to be without fear. You know this, yeah? It’s to act in spite of your fear. To brave is to endure, to act with courage.
My earliest memories are fear. Paralyzing fear. The fears that gripped my gut the most include: thunderstorms, the dark, monsters under the bed, and giants. My first childhood home was perched on a sort of cliff and I had recurring nightmares that giants would come climbing toward my bedroom window that overlooked our steep back yard. Our car once broke down about a block from that same house and I remember being frozen in the back seat as I smelled the rain creeping in. I couldn’t imagine my mother would get us safely home before the lightning struck. But I didn’t really have a healthy fear of death until my 20s. These childhood fears, much like my adult fears, were rarely of the outcome of the danger scenario but of enduring the danger. I thought – I think – I can’t possible bear this.
My parents taught me to “put on my brave shoes” and march through the fear. Stomp the spider. But my fears only morphed and amassed themselves into greater, more gut-wrenching terror. My brave shoes seemed lost or ill-fitting. Maybe one on, one lost under the bed with the ghouls.
The terror grew inversely with the danger. As I became better equipped to care for myself, as more securities were provided for me, I only became more frightened of what I might lose or what I might not be able to hoard for myself.
I have made a number of major life decisions on the basis of fear, for better or worse. Graduate school, job for job, marriage, divorce, town for city for town; spiritual, emotional, and financial debt growing along the way. The weight of it crushing me.
So, I’ve been making a choice recently to be brave. To accept that I am afraid but to endure the fear and fake courage. To act in spite of my gut and because of my gut, and to keep moving my feet firmly along the road when the way is clear but every fiber of my being is begging me to stop, give up, crouch, and hide.
And the more that I endure, the farther I carry the fear heavily on my back, the more my muscles tear and heal and grow and mold around the weight. My posture straightens and I become strong. My diaphragm stretches and makes way for a power greater than me to move in. God nourishes my trite little soul and greatness becomes possible.
By giving up the fight against the unconquerable fears I am granted reprieve.
I become brave.