The Story of Brave Things that Roar

Can I say it? I know we still have a day before 2013 is officially over, but can I please, please say it?


I mean, seriously.

I know that when I chose my 2013 word even before the year rolled around that it wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, I almost decided to choose another word, but then I realized that’s cheating, especially after the word has owned me even before I decided to own it. I knew that I would go through a lot, and I knew that choosing to be courageous means facing fear head on. I wish I could say I was completely prepared, but I guess one is never really that prepared, no matter what.

So wow, 2013. You surely were something.

I could go on and on about courage and bravery, but to keep me from rambling, here are four important things I learned about courage in 2013. :)

1. “Happiness is a form of courage.”

This is a funny thing to think of, and the story behind this post about happiness is really me contemplating if I will buy myself the MacBook Air that my boss was selling me the day after I thought of replacing my 6-year-old MacBook. I know it’s such a shallow thing that I’d write about happiness in the context of buying a gadget, but that decision taught me a lot about how I thought of happiness in my life.

Because when you think about it, really, it takes courage to be happy. It takes courage to choose happiness because it’s easier to be sad, to feel down. It’s easier to dwell on the bad stuff than the good stuff, to see how things went wrong instead of choosing to see how right everything can be (even if you can’t really see it yet). I realized in 2013 that it really takes guts to choose to be happy, to be joyful, to delight. I have failed in this miserably, but I am holding onto this even more in the year to come. And like what my adopted little brother told me last Christmas: This sounds like a good plan.

Because joy and delight are not happy feelings: they are the choices to let love win. (Hilary Sherratt)

2. Courage and grace.

You know how sometimes, you think you’re such a nice person and all that…and then someone comes along, and it totally wrecks your perception of you being nice because they just grind your nerves to the very end? Or sometimes, someone seemed to do some things to spite you on purpose, so bad that you just want to lash out to them and make them feel your wrath because no one is supposed to say bad things about the people you love?

Yeah, I’ve had that several times this year. 2013 was the year that God decided I needed to learn more about grace. I ended 2012 with thoughts on graciousness, and that was just the beginning of it. 2013 saw me grappling for peace, getting really annoyed at people I don’t like, and being on a constant defense mode for the people I love because it felt like some people just won’t stop shooting at them. But the only way to learn to be gracious is when you’re given opportunities to be gracious. I wanted to be an unlimited dispenser of grace, and it was such a tall order that I kept on failing to do it. I learned that the more the important thing is to keep on trying. It takes courage to choose to do that, to give grace to people who don’t seem to deserve it, because in the end you’ll realize that you also need grace.


Not Fragile

One of my closest friends visited my best friend and I one day at work to catch up and meet with another friend who went home for a vacation. It’s been a while since I talked to her, so we updated each other with the state of our lives. I gave her the short version of what was up with me, and before I was finished, I can already tell her reaction, and I sort of knew what she was going to say.

As expected, she was pissed off — and she said it in her really nice way, because she’s really the nicest among our group of friends. And also, as expected, she started ranting about it (in a very nice way, too), and then she said what I knew she would say:

“We don’t want you to get hurt.”

With that, my best friend, who was listening to the conversation while eating dinner, snorted. “I’m not a part of that ‘we’. She needs to go through this.”

* * *

You know how sometimes we hesitate to do things, or say things, because we fear hurting the other person, or we fear making things awkward? Sometimes, we hesitate because we’re not sure how the other person would react, or what they’re thinking. Then with all our hesitation, we decide not to do anything anymore because it might be better to do it later on, if there’s a chance. Sometimes, we don’t even hesitate — we don’t do things anymore, because we think the other person will just take offense and whatever you do will just make things worse.

And I totally agree with that: we need to be careful with one another and treat one another with love and think about what we say, because we do have the capacity to hurt the people we love the most. I agree with that, and I believe in discerning when to say what you need to say, and the right timing to open things up and all that.

But I also believe that sometimes, we need to give the people we love enough credit that they can take what we dish without totally ruining everything.

It’s just like what my two friends said: yes, they don’t want to see me hurting…but how will I ever learn if I don’t go through some things on my own?

I appreciate the thought, really, of how people don’t want to see me hurting. I really, really do. No one wants to see the people they love hurting, or sad, or even just upset. If anything, I would want to spare the people I love of how life can hurt them. And of course I don’t want to get hurt, too.

But there are times when the only way to get to the end is through some things, and we are never guaranteed a smooth ride through. No one said it was easy. And no one ever got through life without getting hurt.

No one ever got through life without hurting the people they love. This doesn’t give you an excuse to just hurt the people around you intentionally. This isn’t about being mean or manipulative or tactless or just plain harsh just so you can prove that you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s about showing them you love and trust them enough to know that they can take whatever you dish. It means not walking on eggshells around the person every time so you won’t hurt them, ever. That’s just impossible. And sometimes, being too careful with them just hurts more. Yes, there is a time to be careful with what you say or do, to tread carefully and speak gently. But sometimes, we mask this carefulness as an escape, as a way to not be responsible for breaking the other person’s heart so you won’t get blamed for the fallout.

That’s a cop out, and perhaps a little bit selfish. We have to give the people we love a little more credit. We have to stop thinking that people are fragile all the time. I’d like to believe that they’re stronger than we think they are, and if we act out of true, selfless love and sincerity, it won’t be that bad. I mean, I’d like to hope it won’t be. Don’t you trust their love enough that they can take whatever you have to say? Don’t you trust yourself enough to say things with enough grace so you won’t leave scars? Don’t you trust that you can forgive each other after everything? That you can move forward from this, and start anew?

Image from weheartit, edited by me, line from Switchfoot’s Let Your Love Be Strong

The more important thing, I think, is to make the most loving choices when these moments come. To choose to love, and forgive, and to give grace, despite everything. To be present, when the fallout comes and to stay through it. There’s a right time to give comfort and be kind, to offer your shoulder to cry on, or even back off when you think what you’ll say will just hurt. There’s a time to cry, there’s a time to grumble and be mad about things for a while, if it helps. But there’s also time to open up, to face each other, to be vulnerable and to trust that the love and care you have for each other is strong enough to weather these storms.

We need to break these walls we build around ourselves and around the people we love in the pretense of protection. Let us find the courage to see and be seen, and be brave enough to love each other with a fierce love that doesn’t make (or take) excuses. Let us love each other with the kind of love that speaks of the truth even when it hurts, gives unlimited grace and forgives. Love is tough enough to handle tough love. Love endures all things, after all.

New Beginnings

Last week at my SFC household, our topic came from Matthew 6:24-27. Upon reading, I realized that this was one of those Gospels that hit us a lot back when I was in YFC. In a funny way, I didn’t like this back then, even if I kept on going back to it, because it sounded so hard. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For someone who’s still trying to find her footing in a bigger world back in college, this was a scary thing. Still, I knew it was important, so I tried.

So our household head asked us: what are the things you denied yourself so you can follow God?

Of course I had an instant answer, but I stopped myself from speaking first because I wanted to chew on the question a little, and perhaps try to find another answer that doesn’t lead to that automatic answer. It was a good example, but I personally thought it was already old, passe, and wasn’t I supposed to be done with that already? So when it was my turn, I picked my answers carefully…and still ended up talking about that. Oh well. Anyway, here’s what I shared:

I denied myself of being self-sufficient. On my recent trip to Singapore, there was a time when I wondered if it was worth it. I wondered, because as I was planning my itinerary, I felt like I was hassling my friends there. For one thing, I was already crashing with them, and now they were rearranging their schedules for me. I tried to shake it off, and instead, focused on accepting this grace from them — because it is grace — but then somewhere in the middle of the trip, I felt it again. How maybe I’m such a burden to them, especially since I forgot to have my money changed at the airport. How they don’t have to do this, how I should be able to manage alone, how I should try not to be a hassle to them especially since I’m just a guest. I shouldn’t disrupt their lives and all that.

What destructive thoughts, right? I think I’ve been so used to taking care of myself and trying not to be a hassle to anyone that I forgot that people just want to do things for you because they want to. Not because you forced them to, or you asked them to, but because they love you and care for you. I’m that person who will go and do things for my friends and not ask for anything in return because they’re important to me, but when I’m at the receiving end of it, sometimes it’s hard to just accept it.

So I forced myself to stop putting myself down, and instead, just humbled myself and accepted this grace, no questions. There really is something humbling about allowing yourself to stop thinking of yourself as a hassle, and instead, leaning in to the people who care for you and accepting the grace and hospitality they can give. Because surprise surprise, we need just as much grace as the next person. We can’t give what we don’t have.