Can I say it? I know we still have a day before 2013 is officially over, but can I please, please say it?
MAN, WHAT A YEAR 2013 HAS BEEN.
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.
Coming to terms about me needing just as much grace as I am asked to give is a very humbling thing. I experienced this in many ways this year: from asking for forgiveness and not fighting back to defend myself, to sitting down and accepting the grace that people gave me, simply because they love me and nothing else. I’ve lived being self-sufficient for so long, and I often pretend that I don’t need anything just so I won’t be a hassle to any other people, but this year I learned that it takes a special kind of courage to sit down and accept what people give and just be thankful for it. It’s a humbling thing.
Because that’s what grace is, right? Grace is giving without expecting anything in return, and accepting without wondering if they are expecting you to give back.
At first, showing people grace makes you feel powerful, like scattering candy from a float in a parade — grace for you, grace for you. You become almost giddy, thinking of people in generous ways, allowing for their faults, absorbing minor irritations. You feel great, and then you start to feel just ever so slightly superior, because you’re so incredibly evolved and gracious.
But then inevitably, something happens, and it usually involves you confronting one of your worst selves, often in public, and you realize that you’re not throwing candy off a float to a nameless, dirty public, but rather that you are that nameless, dirty public, and that you are starving and on your knees, praying for a little piece of sweetness, just one mouthful of grace. (Shauna Niequist)
3. Courage in the movement
In 2013, I learned how to move, and at certain times, to jump. Some of my best friends gave me a mix CD on my 27th birthday, and the cover of the CD showed a girl jumping off a cliff. I’ve written how I am not that kind of thrill seeker, that I even skipped cliff-jumping in one of my vacations because it’s not my thing (and yes, I am scared of heights). But a lot of 2013 felt like that: me, jumping off a cliff. At some point, I remember telling my friend that I thought I had already jumped but it turned out that I was just looking over the edge and I was just really about to jump. It’s terrifying.
This is must be what free-falling feels like, I remember writing. Thinking back, after that particular jump, I had several other cliffs I started jumping from, too. It’s not about being an adrenaline junkie, no. It’s all about the movement. In 2013, I learned that there is courage in movement, in choosing to move and not just letting things happen to you. This is cliche, but life is a journey and for a journey to really happen, you have to move. I had to move. Some of the movement in the past year was made because I had no choice, but that’s okay because the ones that followed after that were mine. It could be as grand as a solo trip, as fulfilling as signing up to tutor kids, or as simple as just choosing to keep walking. Some of them may not be the best ones, but it’s okay because I’m human and I make mistakes. The more important thing is this: in those moments of movement, I found that it is freeing, and most importantly, healing.
Take your most honest self with you on this journey. And move.
Wrestle with the questions, fight against the fear, walk quietly with grief. Be dynamic in the middle of one of the most terrible seasons of your life. Movement changes you and change takes away the weight of loss so slowly that it seems almost imperceptible. One day you’ll wake up and find that you’ve moved so much, you no longer feel the need to cry. (Isa Garcia)
4. Be brave enough to surrender and let go.
I’ve heard and talked and wrote a lot about surrendering and letting go all my life. It’s the in thing, back in college, and my community friends and I would talk about how life is a constant surrender to God, and how you need to let go of things to make room for what God will give you. It’s a lesson that I thought I already know, because haven’t I been letting go of things and people so many times in the past two decades of my life? I should know this better now, right? And isn’t it time that I start holding on instead of letting go?
Well…apparently, there’s more to learn, and you never just stop surrendering and letting go. There is a time to fight, yes, and when those things happen, you have to give it all that you can give for it to be worth it. Holding on is an equally courageous thing and I’ve learned that this year, too. But sometimes — and this is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn this year — the more courageous thing to do is to lay your weapons down, and to surrender.
I fought so hard in 2013, so, so hard, that when everything crumbled, I found myself praying: I asked for this last bit, Lord. Just this smallest thing. Why do I have to give it up to You, too? The moment I asked that question, I knew that there is only one answer to that. I wished I had known that earlier, I really did. I wished I had let go of the things that God was asking for me earlier, I wished I had surrendered more. It could have saved me from so much baggage and heartache, not just for me, but for the people around me. I could have saved them from dealing with all the things I put on them. The Year of the Brave taught me that sometimes, some things just need to happen for you to really learn things. And that you need to get to the end of yourself to realize that surrendering is the only option, and there is nothing else you can do, but to let go.
Surrender your sense of self-entitlement. Let go, because there’s nothing to hold onto. Hold loose, because the tighter you hold, the more you’ll lose it. Let go, because you need to have your hands open, ready to receive what God wants to give. You can’t accept anything if you keep on holding on to what you have.
In 2013, I learned (again) that surrendering to God doesn’t mean you’re losing. I learned that God will never let you fall too hard when you let go. It may not be the softest landing, and sometimes it feels like you’re falling forever…but He will catch you, and that’s a promise. I learned once again, to to trust that God is faithful and good. Even if I can’t see it all just yet.
What if the things we feel most attached to are the things standing between us and heaven? Not “heaven” as in the place we go when we die, but heaven as in the tangible perception of God’s peace, love and mercy, breaking into our reality and our lives right now…
What if these “things” we’re attached to aren’t even bad things, but our fear of losing them is keeping us from seeing beyond what we have right now? What if there was something better?
Unless I let go of what I was holding, I would never get the answers to my deepest questions: Is God good? Can I trust Him? Will He provide for me? (Allison Vesterfelt)
The courage to be happy, to be gracious, to move, to surrender and let go. These are just some of the few things I learned about courage in 2013. It’s true when they say that many things in life are choices, and courage is one of them: you must always choose to be brave. If you really want to be courageous, you need to want it, to choose it. It isn’t easy, and sometimes it feels like I’m just faking it, but I can definitely say that it was worth it. If I had to live 2013 all over again and be given a chance to pick another word, I’d still choose courage because it has taught me so many things that I will never forget. I’m sure my 2012 self would have been proud.
So this is the story, my story, of brave things that roar. The year may be ending, but being brave doesn’t really end when the year turns from 2013 to 2014. There are still many, many brave things that will roar in the coming days, weeks, months, and even years. I will still keep choosing to be brave, just as I have chosen to love.
And this time, I will take delight in all of it. :)