Oh, Bravery. Do You Have to Be So Hard?

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“We say God uses all things for good, but we don’t know how to participate in that process of redemption because we can’t acknowledge that we are in pain, that our beliefs are shaken and that the way we think, feel and live is changed. We are unable to get to the good that God works because we cannot face the bad that life brings.” – Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Why do I do this work? It’s so tiring and requires so much. DSC_0227 (1)And there’s so much to fix. Seriously, who would choose to do this day in day out, analyzing and assessing people’s problems, weighing the meaning of sentences and arguments and trying to improve them?

I love editing, but it’s honestly crazy-making. And even if I finish my part, so much is always left undone, unsaid. And the pain of the work remains.

And is anything really any clearer in the end? Maybe the bigger question is, does any of this work really matter?

It seems obvious that it does. And yet, when I’m so exhausted, it can’t be worth such struggle.

Recently, we had to repair a broken pipe under the house. We’d have liked to ignore it, but had no choice. It seemed wiser not to do the work—no treasure chests found buried in the yard, avoiding it seemed the expedient answer. But the trouble would have remained. And the fear and anxiety would only have increased.

IMG_6503Similar with relationship struggles, I often want to ignore the issues underneath—forfeit understanding and comfort. But the expedient answer is really no answer. The only thing to do is reject the laziness and fear and work to get at the real trouble.

With any struggle that arises, not facing the work required, we won’t improve or benefit from it. At writing, if I aspire to say the vital things too long unsaid, and develop the skill and wisdom that can inspire people, there’s nothing to do but to face the struggle and work.

As with the present editing struggle, the question to ask is, What will I wish I’d done?

Oh, bravery is needed. But who thinks of it?

IMG_6505We don’t want to say we lack bravery to face our struggles because it only adds to the hurt. And we fear pain. Who wants to risk time and resources without any assurance of success? We all know the hurt of multiplied struggles. We’ve all experienced loss upon loss, and we know how risky our work can be. But in life, as in writing, processing happens as you keep going, keep risking, keep fighting.

Processing is progress. If only we can admit that we’re struggling.

Who isn’t facing troubles? And what trouble can patience not overpower? The happiest lives didn’t become so by avoiding struggle. What meaning could the world know without the knowledge of suffering in bravery?

When a pipe needs fixing, somehow the money arrives. When relationship struggles crop up, there’s time to listen. Can I trust that similarly in book work, the stamina and hope to believe will be found and lives will be changed—my own included—despite and even because of the struggle?

Do we seek our true work in learning to receive whatever comes with openness and grace? And will it not bring us the true treasure we seek? Can we trust, even now, that all good things come as we learn to give all we have to the struggles that truly matter?

IMG_6508Practicing this trust may be the way receiving all things is opened.

Maybe it’s only through such perseverance that anything truly great can be brought into the world.

But I don’t know. I’ve only begun to listen to this through struggle. With strengthened endurance, to begin to respond to it. But it seems only in struggling to listen and listening to struggle—to our own and our neighbors’—do we learn this bravery.

I know this fatigue and anxiety are temporary. And learning endurance is worth the struggle. Regardless of any struggle, if we aim to express love—to ourselves and to others—it can make all the difference. Can I aim to be one who takes time to listen to what our struggles are saying—even when they seem not to be saying anything?

This is the skill I want. For this is how I’ll remain focused on what really matters. And for this, I will continue on until I am blessed with a tested bravery.

“When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'” – Genesis 32:25-26

For the Higher Purpose,

Mick

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6 thoughts on “Oh, Bravery. Do You Have to Be So Hard?”

  1. Pastor Mick,

    You have written a sermon! And it’s a good one. Although it’s such a HARD truth (about only growing in grace due to facing struggle). it can’t be ignored anymore than leaky pipes. Well, it can, but then the struggles are wasted. Just gone . . . down the drain.

    Thanks for this one, sorely needed by us human beings.

    Love,
    Suzee B

    1. Always knew I’d follow in Dad’s footsteps someday…. Thanks, I think. Hope your troubles this week have you staying still, not running, and turning your face up to your source of help and strength. :) Appreciate the solidarity, as always, my friend. (And eager to get this final draft completed!)

  2. I was dumb enough when I first got saved at 18 to think that if I prayed for patience I would wake up patient. I learned the answer came through struggle over my own flesh. I’m dumb enough at 51 to still want the easy answer and not the struggle. The struggles get bigger as the Lord works endurance in our life. Thanks, brother.

  3. Thanks for this, Mindy. Dumb enough to think if you believed hard enough you could make things disappear and wish yourself to levitate? Yeah, I think I might know a kid who believed that. We probably all have some magical thinking when it comes to God and how he works. Writers are all creative and romantic, after all. And as I age, I keep discovering more “if…then” beliefs (“If I believe, then I’ll get X”). We all want to avoid struggle, especially if it means shattering our misconceptions about God and how he “protects” us from things we can’t handle. But the more I see how unbiblical that is, the more I realize it’s exactly the things we can’t handle that show him to be bigger and stronger than we ever knew. God break all our magical thinking and leave only truth…

  4. I really needed to read this.

    Seems like every reply I reply back to your posts starts this way…

    But this one has a conviction – which for once – makes me understand WHY the Holy Spirit keeps prompting me to write.

    “When a pipe needs fixing, somehow the money arrives. When relationship struggles crop up, there’s time to listen. Can I trust that similarly in book work, the stamina and hope to believe will be found and lives will be changed—my own included—despite and even because of the struggle?”

    You’re right.

    Not too long ago, I was asked by a pastor’s wife to write of my own struggle with miscarriages. I had five…and I still struggle speaking about them. Especially as each pregnancy carried into the next heartbreak.

    I didn’t want to write.

    I didn’t want to face it.

    I didn’t want to admit I’m still angry.

    Still messy.

    Still working through it.

    And still want to chuck Baby Jesus manger statues out of a window.

    Yeah.

    Well…you’d have to read it to understand that…

    http://sing-over-me.blogspot.com/2015/12/chucking-it-all-away.html

    It ended up being close to one of the most read posts on my blog – especially as new as it is.

    It sparked a moving discussion on my personal Facebook page…and it just grieved some of the congregation members who had no idea what I was going through behind the scenes – as I walked with them in their own messy-lives-turned-inside-out-journeys.

    No one likes to hear of their pastor or his wife suffering.

    Some little sheep in the flock just can’t handle it.

    They like to see their pastor & his wife brave.

    Not scared.

    Not sad.

    Not shaking.

    Not questioning.

    And especially not chucking their Baby Jesus out a window. Especially if that manger scene was given in dedication by a now deceased congregation member – whereupon her death, the church voted to entombed her name by etching it in a gold plaque, and gluing it to the manger “barn” or whatever you call that thing that the figurines are placed in.

    A missing Baby Jesus just wouldn’t complete the set.

    And besides that – one of my Facebook friends happened to be in town one week and asked if we could meet for lunch.

    I thought we were going to just catch up on old times.

    Well…that sorta happened.

    But her purpose was to talk through her own messy journey in facing her 40s and still being childless.

    In the end, I learned several things:

    It’s okay to be vulnerable.

    Some people really didn’t have a clue how bad it was.

    People told me that they never thought about the way Jesus had his own trials to face on earth – that weren’t just the ones on road to Calvary on Good Friday.

    And for me personally…

    …Jesus really CAN identify with miscarriages. I didn’t possibly see how, until I was writing my story and it just came out as I was typing:

    “Did he [Jesus] ever experience a miscarriage?

    No.

    Did he know what it was like to hemorrhage and bleed out?

    Yes.

    And that’s the thought that has occupied my mind ever since.”

    So yes – not only is it healing, but I have a deeper love and respect for Jesus, in ways I would have never thought of – had I not written my story.

    No man, that i know of, can say they know that feeling of cramping, ripping spasms and bleeding uncontrollably.

    But…

    …I think Jesus can.

    And that in itself is a miracle.

    1. Wow, Holly. This feels sacred–so grateful you shared. I believe you’re right about Jesus knowing both supernaturally and even in his natural life what you went through. It’s incredibly comforting and a great story. He knows our struggle and we can trust that. Thanks for sharing–praying you discover more of the rewards of the journey. -M

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