The thing I’ve learned about choosing a word to fly as a banner over my each year, is that this word then flings loose and stirs up opportunity.
Opportunity to dig deep. Opportunity to quit and return to comfortable. Opportunity to grow.
It should not have come as a surprise to me that the very last few days of 2018 were some of my most painful this whole year. I felt the familiar claws of terror creeping into my soul.
I’m not liked. I’m misunderstood. People I thought loved me, don’t. People I trusted aren’t trustworthy. And God might have me say “yes” anyway.
“Yes” to showing up in the vulnerable, painful places. “Yes” to more forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption. “Yes” to humility. “Yes” to being misunderstood for the sake of God’s glory story, not mine.
All “yes”es that make me want to crawl into my bed, deep into my covers, headphones filling my mind with truth, blocking out that anyone else exists. This is how I like to handle fear.
But as each of the days of 2018 passed me by, “Fearless” was always flying above me.
It flew strong when I said “yes” to coaching two days a week with Self Publishing School, knowing my capacity (emotional, physical, time) is limited.
It flew broad when I said “yes” to pushing through new-old pain in our marriage and getting support–again.
It flew high when I said “yes” to embracing hard things about myself, about people I love, and pursuing healthy relationships through the heartache.
It flew proud when I said “yes” to taking our Home Assignment year this year in the U.S., leaving behind a life and home and friends we love, for the other home we love.
The flying flag stood as a reminder of my goal. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
I wanted a year of choosing hope over fear. And that was terrifying. Fearlessness didn’t remove the fear, only gave me a foothold for my next step, right smack into the face of it.
The opportunities didn’t let up through the very last countdown of 2018. And to be honest… they followed me right into 2019.
Even now, I feel the familiar tingle of fear as I hear the whispers of a new “yes.”
So why in the world are these yeses worth it? Why not crawl into my bed?
I have experienced some of the most incredible, life-altering consequences to those yeses.
I love love love the team I serve with at Self Publishing School. I have grown as a coach, learned that I love it, and learned that I’m good at it. I love the mission, the integrity, the purpose, and the people. All of them. It’s been a full year and my heart is so full because I (and they) said “yes.”
Jeremy and I have a new depth in our relationship. We’ve been through some hard stuff. HARD. Losing his mom (and in some ways his dad) days before our 1st anniversary, raising children who’ve endured trauma, health crises, moving across the world, unprofessional work relationships, extended family dynamics, living in a world with people in progress, being people in progress. This last summer we had the chance to attend Breathe for missionary families who’ve experienced trauma and it was SO good. We had daily counseling which about killed us before saving us. But saying “yes” to digging deep and opening our eyes and saying “yes” again… has led us to a rich place today. I don’t regret the pain of that yes.
I also have a new self-awareness this year. I began this year feeling like the small person in every room I entered. Saying “yes” to His small voice has reminded me that my value and worth isn’t derived from difficult relationships (or even good ones), but only from God. “Yes” to persevering through hard relationships has deepened my security in Him. Who would have known? A deeper dependency on Him reveals who you really are… His loved child.
And saying “yes” to vulnerability has brought me rich and precious friendships. It’s terrifying to be honest about one’s shortcoming and fears and struggles. But as Brené Brown speaks about regularly, vulnerability is courageous and freeing. In “The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says,
“My willingness to let someone I care about see me as imperfect led to a strengthening of our relationship that continues to today. That’s why I can call courage, compassion, and connection the gifts of imperfection. When we’re willing to be imperfect and real, these gifts just keep giving.”
So many other yeses, so many other gifts. The terror is worth facing when you know an incredible gift, larger than you could ask or imagine, waits on the other side.
The gift of being fearless.
I don’t plan to leave “fearless” on the doorstep of 2019. Just like every other word before it: New Song, Hope, Comfort, Rest, Abide, Light, it will continue to feed into and inform every day. It joins a list of powerful words and years, life lessons and growth, that will guide me. Believe me, 2019 isn’t looking like it needs less fearlessness.
This year, I’m raising a new banner to join the others.
And to be honest, I didn’t like the word. I resisted it. It feels plastic. Commercialized. Everyone wants it, but so few have it. Miss America wants it. Nations want it. Christmas sings it. Hippies flash it.
Something in me said, “No thank you. It’s been overdone.” And then, as God does, the word came up at every turn. My own devotional, prayers prayed over me, the Sunday sermon, verses, random YouTube videos.
And as I looked at the amount of hard we’ve had and have (even with so much good to be thankful for!) I realized: It is what I want.
How often I remind myself that God gives a peace unlike the world gives.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Or that His peace is the kind that is above and beyond our circumstances or rational thinking (Phil 4:7). That He will “keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]” (Isaiah 26:3).
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Tonight we attended a prayer night for friends dealing with hardship. One of the praying warriors said that the opposite of fear is peace.
Ironic? I think not. God knew I’d need a year of pursuing fearlessness in order to grasp the peace that replaces fear.
Now, I don’t mean “peace” as in “the absence of conflict.” While that’s lovely and all, and what most people mean when they say it, the true meaning is much bigger. And actually, you can have peace in the midst of conflict. So there’s that.
Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situations and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from God. We are not in a position to attain peace ourselves. Yet, God promises all the qualities of shalom – wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety – to those who will look to Him.
Therefore, this year I seek to abide in the peace, the shalom, that only comes from God. The peace which brings with it a sense of safety, even in places of worldy fear. A peace that will usher out my insecurities, fears, doubts, and insecurities, and replace them with…, well, peace.
As we and I head into 2019, I truly wish you God’s peace in everything. Let’s pursue it together.