Passing the Bravery Test

Each day in March, I’m participating in the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You can visit their site here. This is my slice for Day 19.


“… He arrived at the test’s final question: ‘Are you brave?’ Just reading the words quickened Reynie’s heart. Was he brave? Bravery had never been required of him, so how could he tell? […] He didn’t think so. Finally he gave up trying to decide and simply wrote, ‘I hope so’.”          ~  The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart

 

I want to be brave. It is a noble characteristic. Rising to a challenge that includes the possibility of physical, emotional, or mental injury, all for a worthy cause, is something I used to pray for. I wanted opportunities to show bravery, and to be aware of when those windows were before me. Never quite sure of what they’d look like, or if I’d be ready for the moment when they arrived, I nonetheless wanted a chance to show how big my brave was. Or if I had any of it within me.

I’ve read many accounts of women and men in history who have proven to be brave. Malala, the young teen girl who continued to pursue her own education, despite threats and attempts on her life. Rep. John Lewis, who as a youth during the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement, courageously spoke out, boycotted, demonstrated, and marched in the face of death threats, arrests, and beatings. When I was a young boy, I savored the brave heroics of Nathan Hale, Harriet Tubman, Pocahontas, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  

Accounts of bravery stir my soul. They inflame my desire to leave a mark. To build a legacy. Yet like the fictional Reynie, I’m only left to hope that I can answer the bell when the time comes. I’m not aware of my own bravery to date. I see myself in terms of the ordinary, rather than the extraordinary. So I intentionally surround myself with women and men of courage. I fill my heart and mind with music, quotes, and accounts from those that have proven to be brave. Heroes that are both fictional and non-fictional. 

Immersing myself in this fellowship has a transformative effect. Their voices inspire me to be brave. Their examples embolden me to walk into uncertainty.

 

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. ~ Acts 4:13

 

Though I’m not quite sure how to articulate the nuanced distinction between courage and bravery, I’m aware of many instances where I’ve had to summon courage. There have been numerous opportunities to press into challenges where fear, doubt, or insecurity coursed through my veins. Over the years, I can recount the times where I have answered to bell to lift my voice against injustice; or own up to my failures. I’ve lead the way into difficult encounters; and I’ve been forthcoming about areas where I was less than honorable. There have been many times where I have ignored the pangs of fear or anxiety, and walked forward into the moment. 

There have also been times where I shrunk back, and let fear win out. My record of courage is by no means a spotless or glowing one, but it is a growing one. Along the years I’ve learned that courage is a choice to enter the fray; a battle that is often experienced primarily on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. 

Perhaps that will be my own definition of bravery. Maybe there won’t be any one great act of heroism that punctuates my life. I may not ever have the experience of rescuing anyone from danger, or saving anyone from peril. Maybe bravery will be the accumulation of many decisions to summon courage. Maybe my brave is described more in terms by its’ width than its’ height. Maybe that is how I will pass the bravery test.

I hope so.

 

Brave – Sara Bareilles

 http://youtu.be/QUQsqBqxoR4

 Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down 

By the enemy 

Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing 

Bow down to the mighty 

Don’t run, stop holding your tongue 

 

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live 

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in 

Show me how big your brave is 

 

Say what you wanna say 

And let the words fall out 

Honestly I wanna see you be brave 

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12 thoughts on “Passing the Bravery Test

  1. Your post resonates with me. I read it yesterday morning, last night, and then tonight. It’s a winner that’s for sure. I can truly connect to the thoughts you presented. What’s funny is I am so familiar with the song yet I don’t think I ever really listened to the words. How can that be? It has taken on a whole new meaning. And, while I don’t truly know you, I believe you already passed the bravery test.

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  2. I love the music that I’m exposed to on our Spiritual Journey Thursday. This song is new for me and I’m glad you shared the lyrics. Love how you echoed Reynie’s words, “I hope so.”

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  3. It’s easy to be brave in small ways every day. It’s sure a lot harder to be Malala-brave or Rep. Lewis-brave. But it’s possible. (I don’t know if I could ever be as brave as them.)

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  4. “I’ve learned that courage is a choice to enter the fray; a battle that is often experienced primarily on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.” I was very shy as a kid and, have over the years, had to learn to speak up and “enter the fray”. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

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  5. I’ve seen this theme pop up in a few of the BRAVE Spiritual Journey posts this morning – that bravery isn’t necessarily an extraordinary act, but could be small, quiet, personal. We talked about this verse in our class on Mark last night at church: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” ~ Acts 4:13 It gives me great comfort to know how flawed, sometimes faithless and afraid, and ordinary the disciples were. What made them great is that they were in the presence of Jesus. He’s our only hope to be truly brave and courageous…and extraordinary.

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    • I love it when this happens! After I read your post, I jumped up and read Acts 4:13. It hit me that the council was amazed at how the men had changed, but this only happened because of their time with Jesus. That is where the courage and bravery came from. And then I had seen these insightful ideas from Holly! Great stuff!

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  6. I love the way you just honestly attack a subject, run it over in your mind, and come to a wise conclusion. Maybe there won’t be one great act but an accumulation of bravery. Your writing is brave. Keep on!

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  7. Your words really resonated with me this morning. “Maybe bravery will be the accumulation of many decisions to summon courage.” Perhaps this is true. It is just not one act, but all the acts together that bring forth courage and show bravery. You have given me much to ponder.

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  8. This really spoke to me. We discuss bravery all the time in my classroom. It takes immense bravery to open a book and work with the printed word when the letters dance before you and the meaning of them escapes you. But brave we are, day after day, every time we open a book. Thank you. I will post this poem today in my room. I know it will inspire conversation and deeper dialogue about what bravery can look like and feel like.

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