God's Brave Women - Liz's Story
Sometimes, bravery looks like a whole lot of questions. Sometimes it’s sitting, letting the questions come, and allowing yourself to be in the space where the absence of answers feels dark and daunting and void of faith.
This year, this is what “brave womanhood” has looked like for me.
There are lots of ways I’ve been brave in my life. I lived in South Africa for a month, with twelve strangers, when I was only a junior in high school. I traveled through Western Europe for six weeks after college, living in sketchy hostels and eating bread and apples because my budget said I couldn’t afford a backpacking trip, but I was going to do it anyway. I’ve zip-lined. I’ve skydived. I speak every year in front of hundreds of people, sharing personal stories and allowing myself to be emotionally vulnerable. My husband and I are in the midst of a three-year journey to adopt our first child, from a country we know little about. These are all my stories, and they all require bravery in some form. And yet, these stories, in their different ways, are easier stories to share.
This year, I’m learning a quieter, shyer story of Bravery. This year, I’m wandering in a desert, and being brave is often getting up and daily letting the desert paths guide me. It’s walking thirsty, tired and uncertain. But it’s walking the path nonetheless.
My husband and I have wrestled over the last few years with our place in the church. We have wrestled with our faith. Not because faith is absent, but instead we’ve wondered if “our faith” looks the way it does because of where we were raised or the church we’ve chosen to make our home or the widening list of other external factors. We’ve wrestled with what “our faith” really looks like to us – with what it looks like to me. I’m thankful to have someone to wrestle alongside, intimately, on this desert journey. And I’m thankful for others, who I really believe, God has brought to us. So many others who are also wrestling and taking up the journey with us.
"Because faith is still there, and my relationship with Jesus is still so important to me. But it looks different – really different from what it’s ever looked like before."
Because faith is still there, and my relationship with Jesus is still so important to me. But it looks different – really different from what it’s ever looked like before. It’s tender, it’s raw, and it’s a learning process. It’s an unwinding, unbinding, stripping away of so much. It’s a stripping of myself, of the unhealthy habits that I’ve learned to survive and succeed in the world. It’s a shedding of years of working hard to earn my worth from my God and from others. It’s years of guilt and shame built up, layered on by our churches and friends who we care about and who care about us. And from spaces of really good intentions, they’ve encouraged comparison and judgment and prescriptive behavior to relate to our Creator, and now we’re letting that Creator wash it away. But before clothing myself again, in other patterned behaviors or coping mechanisms, I’m sitting naked. Naked in the eyes of my Creator. Naked and unashamed.
In all honesty, though, it’s a lot harder to sit “naked and unashamed” than words might lead you to believe. This is where Bravery comes in. Because it is hard to sit with myself.
This year, through conversations and reading and examining assessment tools and even practicing “silence and solitude,” I am learning a lot about who I am and why I act the way I do. I have the tendencies of a workaholic. I crave the praise and sense of accomplishment that work brings me. I rarely let myself stop working because it’s easier to work than to face the questions that arise when I sit still – questions about the world and about myself. I manipulate people because they help me accomplish what I need to get done. But more so, I believe that if I don’t get things done, others won’t genuinely want to be around me, just for who I am.
It’s not easy to be faced with the truth about me, believing that both unhealthiness and goodness lie within me. It’s hard for me to look in the mirror and not write off all that is beautiful just because something destructive lies within. I work hard, and I can get so much accomplished for truly good causes and initiatives. But I have to let myself sit – just sit as me. Facing these arising questions inspires creativity to spill out of my breath and my bones. And I can join up with people to fight for the world and our passions or to simply enjoy one another.
The reality is both co-exist. There is self-work to be done, and there are also things to be celebrated. This same truth goes for our world as well. In the spaces where true damage is done, there is also often beauty. Where good intentions created shame and guilt, they also created elements of truth, energy and life. So often I try to claim a space as either “good” or “bad.” And this year I’m learning to embrace that it’s often neither or both.
"So often I try to claim a space as either “good” or “bad.” And this year I’m learning to embrace that it’s often neither or both."
I don’t have all the answers. I still have lots of questions. And I’m still sitting in spaces that feel dark and doubtful. But one of the things Jesus shared with me recently is that “This lesson [these answers] takes time.” As I walk out my journey with Him, He comforts my heart by reminding me that He is the Creator of time, and we have much time together.
I’ve been comforted and encouraged many times this year by a poem written by Ted Loder. For others who find themselves wandering the paths of the desert with me, my hope is that it also encourages you.
Drive Me Deep to Face Myself
Lord, grant me your peace,
for I have made peace
with what does not give peace,
and I am afraid.
Drive me deep, now,
to face myself so I may see
that what I truly need to fear is
my capacity to deceive
and willingness to be deceived,
my loving of things
and using of people,
my struggle for power
and shrinking of soul,
my addiction to comfort
and sedation of conscience,
my readiness to criticize
and my reluctance to create,
my clamor for privilege