My first-born is headed off to middle school. Yesterday, it got real, when she picked up her 6th grade class schedule and school gear. Last night, we gathered one last time with mothers and daughters who have walked through a Jen Hatmaker study with us, called Brave Girl. I’d like to think that it’s been formative for the girls, reinforcing what matters as they head into this new frontier. At the end of our evening, we gave them ‘BRAVE’necklaces from The Giving Keys. The control-freak in me has done everything I can to prepare her well.
Today, I looked up the definition of brave: ready to face danger and/or pain.
What the hell was I thinking? I’m not sure I want her to be brave! I think what I really want is for her to be SAFE. Sure, courage and bravery sound lovely – but, am I really ready for this? You can read all the books, do all the studies and try your best to control outcomes. But, eventually, we all face the reality that we can’t.
This morning, I sat with a bunch of moms, who together make up the leadership team for Mothers Together at Menlo Church. We talked about the year ahead, and also reflected on past teaching moments that have stuck with us through the years. Hands-down, we agreed that the women who said, ‘here’s what I’ve told nobody till now’ or ‘here’s a part of my story that often sends me to the bathroom in tears’ ..when someone is willing to be vulnerable and show you their true-self, the lessons and comfort that come from that are second-to-none. We remember the ones who were brave.
We all want to be brave. Yet, none of us want to face danger or pain. That’s the quandary. Whether you’re headed into your teenage years or you already carry an AARP card – none of us seek suffering. There’s that great passage in Romans that says, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” This truth runs through many faiths. Still, as much as we understand this process in our minds, our hearts hate the shitty reality of pain. We will do just about anything to avoid it, even as we glorify the byproducts of the process. Speaking to this process in his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks says, “Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.” Wow. Along the same lines, I read a blog post by Sarah Bessey this morning, where she writes: “I always thought I would be one sort of person, but now I’m someone else.” We want to be brave, but we don’t want the suffering….we don’t want to change. If we applaud a growth mindset for our head, shouldn’t the same be true of our hearts?
One of the gals who spoke this morning said, “sometimes, I think my job is to lower the bar.” We all laughed. Why? Because, a) we walk around thinking that if the world knew all of the skeletons in our closets, we would be instantly declared Limbo Champions (cuz, we’re all constantly lowering the bar). And, b) we laugh out of the sheer relief that we’re not the only ones with broken pieces. Wouldn’t it be grand, if we could all lower the bar…in real life? Amazingly, in lowering the bar, we might actually grow taller and stronger.
The advice that Jen Hatmaker gave the girls is pretty good advice for women of all ages:
- Be kind.
- Be you.
- Love Jesus.
For young and old, this is it! So, can we make a pact? No charades, please. If we’re gonna encourage our kids in this and do our best to model this, it would help if we stayed true to ourselves and our stories. I love what Brene Brown says about our stories. She writes:
Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.
I am always grateful to the women who, in private or public, are willing to share their brokenness. But, as Brene cautions, we have to use some discretion in picking the people and places where we choose pull back the curtains on some portion of our story. That said, discretion is different from fabrication. Maybe we don’t have to tell our deepest darkest secrets to the world, but is it too much to ask we stop pretending like we always have our shit together? I say this, partly as a plea and partly as a confession.
We all want the bravery placard. Yet, we all pray we can bypass the process. You can’t. Life just doesn’t work that way. What you CAN do, is find people. The good ones actually draw near when life sucks. They’ll be honest about their pain, and will keep your own story safe. The real KEY, I will tell my daughter as she heads off to middle school….is that it’s scary and hard, but it is good to strive for bravery, even though there are not shortcuts….even though there will be moments she may cry (when means I will probably cry too)…still, it is good to pursue perseverance and character. Eventually, you will get to hope….especially, if you have people who will walk with you along the way. #timetolaunchmybaby #bebrave #bekind #beyou #lovejesus #bettertogether