By Marnie Hammar
God's Brave Women - Marnie's Story
When I was in grade school, I counted the days in between visits to the roller rink. It was the 80s’, which meant I’d pull out my fancy pink satin jacket, with its flat collar and the silver sequined roller skate on the back. I’d pump a few spritzes from my reserved-for-the-rink perfume, which I’d carefully labeled “Roller Skating Perfume” with my Dymo label maker. I’d tuck my Goody comb in my pocket (making sure the purple handle was visible outside my jacket).
But every time we went, this annoying little girl, who was faster and cuter than I was, would steal all of the attention. Inevitably, as soon as we laced up our skates, she’d seek out whoever made eye contact with her and say, “See me skate?” Then she’d take a lap, checking on their undivided attention as she went, stopping back to collect their praise.
Fueled by this applause, See-Me-Skate Girl glided along for hours, annoying me the entire time. All of my effort with the perfume and the jacket and the comb, and she stole all of the attention.
Really, it wasn’t that I wanted the attention. What I longed for was approval. Acceptance. I wanted to know I was enough. Praise equaled worth.
I’m not sure when my tango with striving actually began, but I see roots of it here. And that dance lasted for years. I took it further and attached this twisted game of proving myself to my relationship with Jesus. As a preacher’s kid, I learned early how to do Jesus-y things, but I didn’t do them to show His love to others. I did them to earn His love for me.
"I’m not sure when my tango with striving actually began... I took it further and attached this twisted game of proving myself to my relationship with Jesus. As a preacher’s kid, I learned early how to do Jesus-y things, but I didn’t do them to show His love to others. I did them to earn His love for me."
For years, I lived my faith like this. Like See-Me-Skate girl, I, too, stepped onto the rink to skate out my faith, asking Him to watch me. I went around and around and around, waving at Him as I sped by.
Lap after lap, I’d check in with Jesus:
"Hey, Jesus, look what I did for you today!"
"Hey, Jesus, did you see that?"
"Hey, Jesus, how am I doing?"
For years, I thought I was nailing it. I thought I was living a courageous faith. I believed the world’s lie, that pursuing those big things is what brave looks like, and I thought I was being brave.
But in my busyness and striving, I missed a few things: I knew of Jesus, but I’d never sat with Him. I waved to Him, but I never stopped to talk with Him. I loved Him, but I never offered Him my heart.
My striving for Him had separated me from Him.
"I knew of Jesus, but I’d never sat with Him. I waved to Him, but I never stopped to talk with Him. I loved Him, but I never offered Him my heart. My striving for Him had separated me from Him."
I coasted along, round and round, smiling and waving until I collided with the rink walls. Knocked down by the shock of a raw, painful season in my marriage, facing sin that I didn’t know was there, ripped us open. Ripped me open. We needed more than laps of smiles and waves to Jesus to get us through it.
When I fell down, when my skates would no longer carry me, when I was flat on my back, only then did I look up. I finally, truly, saw Jesus.
I remember lying there, the void where my faith should have been exposed. Striving had kept me from being filled. I held nothing but exhaustion and emptiness and confusion. How could this have happened? How did we get here?
In that collision moment, I understood that being brave doesn’t always look like stepping out under the disco ball and strobe lights. Sometimes — maybe most of the time — being brave is less about putting on the satin jacket and more about hearing God’s still, small voice. Putting our pieces back together was going to require that quieter kind of brave.
So I stepped out of the rink and sat down on the bench where I’d placed Jesus those many years ago. I invited Him into those hidden places. I got to know Him deeper, and as I did, that still, small voice got louder.
This new brave felt both simple and hard — because simple doesn’t mean easy. Listening to Him took more intentionality than all the performing and striving I’d filled my time with before.
"This new brave felt both simple and hard — because simple doesn’t mean easy. Listening to Him took more intentionality than all the performing and striving I’d filled my time with before."
As I learned this new brave, I could see its ways more clearly:
Brave is deciding to cease striving and know He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Brave is choosing to trust His ways, even though they aren’t my ways (Isaiah 55:8).
Brave is knowing that He directs my steps and delights in every detail of my life (Psalm 37:23).
I’m still practicing this kind of brave. For me, choosing brave, over and over, means I:
1.) Make space to listen to God.
I can still forget. I have to set aside time to talk with Him and I can’t do all the talking. I ask questions and then stop talking, opening my ears to hear and sense what He has to say.
2.) Believe He will answer.
I made a list of all the verses that promise He will speak to us. I especially cling to His assurance that His sheep hear His voice. Instead of making decisions and plans, I ask God for His plans. Then I wait to hear Him.
3.) Trust His still, small voice.
In this loud and shiny world, sometimes I have to fight to hear Him louder. So many voices make their way to my ears each day and I need to hold tight to — and trust — the One who speaks to and through my soul.
"In this loud and shiny world, sometimes I have to fight to hear Him louder. So many voices make their way to my ears each day and I need to hold tight to — and trust — the One who speaks to and through my soul."
He might ask me to step into that rink and skate under that disco ball. Or He might ask me to clean boo-boos and buy milk and mop floors. No matter what it is that He asks of me, to be sure I’m not just jumping out in that rink again, my bravest brave is to first listen.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Marnie writes about knowing God deeper and hearing Him louder. Wife for 25 years and boy mama (15, 12, & 9), Marnie’s day job revolves around taming the stinky, scraping off the sticky, and distributing boys to the places they go in suburban Cincinnati. Her sink full of dishes is evidence that she’s finally settled into a life that embraces grace and growth, and the knowledge that freedom isn't found in perfectly completed checklists.
Before kids, Marnie loved working as a corporate communications consultant and marketing director in higher education. Her favorites are cheering for her boys from soccer sidelines, settling in for family movie nites, and laughing with her friends. Loudly. With some cackling.
You can find Marnie at marniehammar.com, where you can subscribe to her monthly newsletter and receive "10 Scriptures that Undo Striving." She would love to connect with you as well on Instagram or Facebook.