Updated: Jan 11
By Clarissa Moll
Brave Women Series - Clarissa's Story
I sat in the passenger’s seat and took a deep cleansing exhale. I knew that focused breathing helped to trigger my brain’s relaxation system, and I hoped it would work this time. I was afraid. My teenage daughter sat in the driver’s seat, her hands gripping the steering wheel. She was ready. I wasn't. It was time to learn how to drive.
Since I became her mom sixteen years before, I’d believed the cliché that children were your heart walking around outside your body. No wonder I felt nervous when she headed to preschool or fell on the playground! In many ways, parenting felt like I was the one headed into a new situation or recovering from a fall. As an adult, however, I always knew my job: to teach my daughter bravery. Most of all, to model it for her.
As a single mom, I’d regularly put on a brave face for my four kids. After losing my husband in a tragic accident in 2019, I worked hard to rebuild our family’s life, a task that often forced me to act courageously when inside I was quaking with fear.
"After losing my husband in a tragic accident in 2019, I worked hard to rebuild our family’s life, a task that often forced me to act courageously when inside I was quaking with fear."
Learning to drive, however, was one place where I couldn’t keep my fears to myself. Here, as we sat in the car together on the verge of something new, I found that I couldn’t tap into bravery. Here, powerless in the passenger seat, I just felt scared.
Living with Loss
The trauma that came with my husband’s death radically altered my willingness to be courageous. After my loss, risks now loomed large, and my loved ones’ lives appeared more fragile than they ever had before. I’d seen death up close. I knew that bad things could happen. Grief didn’t discriminate.
"After my loss, risks now loomed large, and my loved ones’ lives appeared more fragile than they ever had before."
Because of this, even routine parenting tasks like teaching my child to drive had become infused with fearful sorrow. What if my sweet girl got in an accident? What if she hurt someone else? How could I let my daughter drive off into a world where road rage and black ice and freak accidents occurred? More than that, how could I help her become brave when I felt so very not brave inside?
For most of my Christian adulthood, I’d heard the phrase “faith over fear,” a claim that even the faith of a mustard seed could be enough to surmount life’s greatest threats. But, here, even my best prayers seemed to bounce off the dashboard. It didn’t matter how much I believed in God’s sovereignty, his power or his lovingkindness. My fears shouted even more loudly. And so, when I arrived home that afternoon from our driving session, I did the very bravest thing I could do. I cried.
"I did the very bravest thing I could do. I cried."
A Different Kind of Brave
Our culture will tell you that big girls don’t cry and that real men stick out the pain. Thankfully, Jesus offers a very different perspective on what it means to be brave. When threatened by those who wished to kill him, Jesus often retreated (Luke 4:16-30). When life dealt painful blows, Jesus wept (John 11:35). When his death pressed in, Jesus begged for another way (Luke 22:42).
Always God but also fully human, Jesus modeled for us what courage really looks like -- obedience to the Father, often walking next to grief and fear. This was a courage I could embrace. Life’s brokenness had erased my false sense of security, but it could not destroy my bravery if I recognized fear beside me too. Trust and courage would grow as fear was acknowledged not pushed away.
"Always God but also fully human, Jesus modeled for us what courage really looks like -- obedience to the Father, often walking next to grief and fear... Trust and courage would grow as fear was acknowledged not pushed away."
A few days later, after a conversation with a trusted friend, I got back into the passenger’s seat with my daughter, and we tried again. This time, I began by acknowledging the quiet invisible passengers riding with us -- my fear, my anxiety and my grief. I admitted that I wasn’t brave about the process, and I affirmed my daughter’s desire for emerging independence. I’m not sure that my speech was particularly compelling, but I know that it was honest.
For the first time since we’d started driver’s education, my bravery was ready to take the wheel.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...
You are Brave!
No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.
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Clarissa Moll is an award-winning writer and podcaster who helps bereaved people find flourishing after loss. She is the author of Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Living with Grief and Thriving after Loss. Clarissa's writing appears in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, RELEVANT, Modern Loss, Grief Digest, and more. She cohosts Christianity Today's Surprised by Grief podcast and is a frequent guest on podcasts and radio shows.
Clarissa lives a joyful life with her four children and rescue pup, calling both New England and the Pacific Northwest home. Connect more with her on her website clarissamoll.com, as well as Instagram.