This is born largely out of a desperate need to write something, both for the blog and my own well-being. Sometimes I think I’m still getting through the last post, but that was too many months ago for me to not have written something else. It’s questionable whether or not I’ve actually completed the arc that An Exercise in Vulnerability seemed to send me on. “Learning to dance with the fear” is taking longer than I expected – who’d have thought the character development portion of this story would last so long? If fear was the theme of the last post, maybe courage should be the focus of this one. The problem is that I have far less experience with the latter.
Courage presupposes the existence of fear. Boldness can’t occur without the risk of weakness. You’ve probably heard the quote from Nelson Mandela: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” If you do some math, this seems to mean that the more anxious a person is, the more opportunity for courage they have! (Good news for yours truly.) However, it takes some work to get out of the ruts of fear and build bold habits instead.
In my last post, I listed some of the positive-yet-vague goals I’d come up with: “be open to new opportunities”, “grow in relationships”, “be authentic and intentional”. There is a fear associated with each of these, a risk of failure or rejection. It’s impossible to script out the development of a Friendship, and futile to try to plan for every eventuality in an unfamiliar environment. This doesn’t mean we should abandon logic and forethought, of course, but simply know their limits. Sometimes extensive planning does have a time and place, thankfully. To come back to Ben Rector, though, dancing with fear often means figuring out the steps on the fly.
One of my favorite examples of this was the trip to Camp Como last summer. (Honestly, it’s one of my favorites because I just love bringing up the fact that I left Joplin for Colorado, however briefly.) It seemed to be an entire summer spent dancing on the fly. More recently, boldness has shown itself in the form of pseudo-extroversion. I must reluctantly admit that community is as important as people say it is – and even enjoyable. (However, it’s the healthy boundary of Introvert Time that enriches it even more, so take that, real extroverts.) This is a weird kind of courage, because the fear is more about my own limitations than about other people. When it comes to specific relationships, the authenticity requires vulnerability (and one exercise in that is enough for me.)
One thing that helps decrease fear to a manageable level is the recognition of God’s hand behind the scenes. All these attempts at boldness are worthless without foundation in His strength and guidance. Nearing the end of last semester, He prompted me to move away from a student job at my school and start seeking other options. After a period of confusion and unemployment, as well as a failed attempt to sell my plasma, He provided an awesome opportunity to serve at my home church. I don’t say this to pretend I’m an example of great faith, but to point out that we can step out in boldness because Someone else has already done the extensive planning ahead of us.
I’m still considering this a rough draft despite publishing it, so I don’t mind getting a little off track. The point of all this is that I’m not sure “I’d rather quit than risk that I could lose” anymore. (Thanks, Ben.) I hope this is an encouragement for some other oft-stressed kid like me to pursue boldness. You’ll only see its benefits in future hindsight!