Welcome to the second post in a series on courage, the first post was here in case you missed it.
In that post, I offered a definition of courage: “Action in the midst of healthy fear plus joy.” Today, I am going to begin to focus on a part of this definition that is the game-changer in moving us into courage…
In life, this is often what happens. We are moving along, making progress. It might feel smooth and effortless or it might feel like a struggle, but we still see that we are making forward progress. And then out of the nowhere–bam! We hit a wall or a threshold.
On an emotional level, it might feel like we slammed right into a brick wall. Have you ever run into a glass door? Or it might feel like we suddenly came up on the edge of a cliff and barely fell in. Once we get our footing we realize we are staring into an infinite chasm of emptiness, impossibility.
It is no use being hyper-spiritual or extra tough about this experience. The real life we are modeled by the actual quotes of God the Father, Jesus, the prophets, about every single honorable character mentioned in the Bible, and any other living leader I respect teaches us to be honest and let our emotions be what they are rather than deny or suppress them, or fight them like many of the superficial, detached, or weird approaches that some communities have modeled.
Emotions aren’t our enemy–they are our friends–if we let them be.
Once we gather ourselves up from the shock of hitting our threshold we have some options before we are able to move forward.
I see four:
1) Turn back until we are far away from the dangers of the wall or edge so we are back in safe, familiar territory.
2) Settle in, build a solid house right near the edge because it seems clear we can’t go further. We don’t want to go back, but we just don’t see the way forward either. Who knows, one day an ingenious solution might present itself!
3) Pitch a tent, regather ourselves, build a fire to warm up, enjoy some solid food and get some much-needed rest before we continue.
4) Peruse the wall or the edge of the cliff and look for a clever way to either climb over the wall, or look if there is a way to climb down the edge of the cliff or even see if there is something out in the open air that might support us if we took a flying leap like a vine, empty pair of Maleficent wings fluttering about, a parachute floating in the sky, a giant Lord of the Rings eagle, etc…
So, let’s name these four main options:
1) Go Back
2) Settle In
3) Pitch a Tent
4) Creatively Explore
And this is how it works in real life.
Now hear me out and this might surprise you–I think there is a time for options 2-4 in their proper season, but not a time for option one. I don’t believe we are ever meant to go back. This is why I think we have eyes on the front of our face, not on the back of our head. Yes, even option four can hurt us when we need something else. In the wrong season, exploring creates a frenzy, enabling a type of addiction to push or moving forward, “growth” at the expense of our heart.
In another season our heart tells us to set up a more permanent residence because it is going to take a while to get nutrients deep-down into us and this is not immediately apparent. But this season of life is tricky. It is also the status-quo–about everyone approves of this season. Be careful not to listen to their reasoning of why they are there as your own. Because sometimes we are settled in and things feel comfy, too comfy. We are used to the warmth of the hearth, the availability of a steaming cup of coffee or tea, the certainty of the brick home that surrounds us. Hell, we have a great view of the canyon from our kitchen window! But–deep down we know our heart has told us we have entered a season where we are beyond rested: we are feeling bored, beginning to feel like a glutton of time, merely observers of the great adventure. Our heart is whispering. “It is time to get up and go forward into the unknown.” It is time to leave your nice house for a better home: a roof of open sky and walls of open air.
The worst is when we don’t even know our heart is telling us to get up. This usually happens when we went back. Disillusionment kicked in, “hope differed made our heart sick.” (Prov 13:12) The habits and tradition of old, the familiar country promises us no more risk and the lie of relief. Here we lose touch with our heart, the signal begins to fade into a faint buzz, if we hear anything at all. We can’t even see the edge of the cliff or the wall anymore. My heart? Good joke! That old thing got me in trouble, I am in control now. No more of that silly business, period.
This is the most dangerous scenario of all because we are on auto-pilot mode of ignoring the prompts of our heart. And it usually requires a breakdown, trauma, or confrontation with the truth to stop this auto-pilot’s engine. We are dealing with an inner hardness, a stubbornness that has formed solid metal armor over our heart.
Then there is a time to gather up some wood, branches and whatever else you have and make a lean-to for a tent. Yes–this is meant to be temporary. It is right for you to stop and rest, refuel, and breathe in your moment–if you are on the edge of collapse and the option isn’t immediately clear on how to cross over the threshold. Get enough of you back to start well again. If it takes a day, great. If days, fine, if a week or two, have at it. Speaking of courage–perhaps the first step of courage really is in a willingness to truly assess your need for rest. Moving forward when you are in burn-out only creates personal havoc in the end, even though it may feel like the entire world tells you that being the first one into work and the last one to turn the lights out is THE example of the model citizen worker. Don’t listen to this BS. Just like Lionel Logue says in the movie, The King’s Speech, to King Edward about the knighted doctors who advised him to smoke before it was public knowledge that it was harmful, “It is official. They are idiots!” 🙂
The Way Across
Here is the thing: the thing that almost always propels us to cross the threshold is not mere discipline, tenacity or grit to push through it. This may surprise you because it might feel like I am doing this big honkin’ macho blog series on courage and isn’t that what courage is all about-grit? I think that is only a part of it and not the most important part of it.
Something else woos me across, pulls me through like a powerful magnet. And this same thing is what surprises the crap out of people when it reveals itself–every time–when I coach them around it. When we creatively explore and hunt for this, we find an altogether different way forward. A way that reveals itself as the way. Sometimes it takes some time to find it, but it is worth it.
It is not starting with some brilliant, well-planned logical strategy.
It is joy, AKA the fruit of being in desire, AKA living from your design.
But there is this counterfeit message that lures us in saying, “You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” In other words, it tells you that you have to become faster, stronger, higher, stronger, lighter, smarter, more of this, more of that, more of whatever he or she famous person does, more of whatever that successful company does–and it looks and smells good.
When we go down this path become duped by the lie that discipline becomes the end, not a means into joy. We are lured in by the life of er’s and mores. When we fall prey to this lie, we begin to call our heart’s voice our flesh or our sinful nature, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I define the flesh or sinful nature in relation to the heart as this: “The flesh is the part of you that resists the heart God gave you.” So, taking some time to actually explore what options align to what would actually be fun, joyful, or exciting is something you will have to discipline yourself to do. In other words, finding real, down-to-earth doorways into living out your design is not actually the easiest answer. People sometimes mistake what do I do as helping people find the easy, posh, fluffety, no-suffering kind of life. No, not at all. Or on the other hand, some have conveyed that this philosophy encourages people to be blind idiots, causing them to never get anything done because you know, “people who follow their heart’s desires never get anything done”–because they are only following emotional whims, not a concrete plan. Prioritizing our work and being productive isn’t mutually exclusive with joy or desire. This is the fight worth fighting, to find a way to stay in priority of what you really need to do next–AND–do it in joy.
This is the breakthrough, where Satan and his minions release high-pitch screams from the abyss, because the secret has been found out.
This is a different life. A life the world truly cannot make sense of apart from a beautiful, joyful, pure, purpose-giving God.
Let’s Get Practical
If you are taking advice from people who only focus on the behavior of “more” or some other “er” words and can’t give you concrete encouragement towards your heart’s joy, towards desire, do yourself a favor–plug the ears of your heart and don’t let those words in.
If your closest support can’t ask you, “What is your heart telling you?” “What does your gut say?” or “What do you want to do?” …Go ahead and keep those earplugs in.
This is fast-food crap. Sure, it might give you a hit of energy, might offer you some change–for a short time–but it won’t give you fulfillment and gives you that gut-bomb feeling that comes after eating a fast food double cheeseburger. Because you missed good, pure food, and you know it.
Many people are scared of the lack of control that comes when they see others have the cojones to surrender to the heart God gives them. So they give you quick, cliche, cheap advice because it gives them a shot of pain relief, from the pain of ignoring their own heart.
Love ‘em, but ignore their words around what you should do. Shoulds kills the heart. They aren’t healing balm, they are a slow heart-killing poison.
Find the person who will dare to ask you questions like this, it will pay itself back untold dividends:
“What do you want?”
“What are your dreams?”
“Where are you at with living out your dreams?”
“How can I help you?”
“What resources do you need to help you live that out?”
“What scares you, but calls life out of you?”
“What makes you smile?”
“Where do you come alive?”
“What is your heart asking you to do next?”
I love love love to offer you content that serves you and I want to offer you something that helps you take this to the next level. If you can’t point to someone or enough people in your life that can help you tap into your heart, I would love to serve you by having a coaching conversation with you. If this resonates with you and you are interested in having a complimentary coaching conversation with me CLICK HERE.