by Claire Bracken
What are the first things we think of when we hear the word bravery? The most popular responses, including my own, would be men going into battle, the movie Braveheart about the rugged William Wallace, or even Frodo from the Lord of the Rings. These are the first things that come to mind, but over the past few months the Lord has started to shift the word bravery that we’ve associated with masculinity for so long, to something that is also very feminine.
It all started when I was turning 25, a quarter of a century. I knew that I needed to do something big or else I might die of boredom. I’ve always loved traveling, but had always done it in the safety of a school program or with my family. Never had I gone somewhere unknown on my own, and I knew for that very reason I had to do it. I am not sure what originally stirred up the desire, but it stemmed from always wanting to break the female stereotype whether that was keeping up with the neighborhood boys in scratches and bruises, out lifting men in the gym, or majoring in a degree that was heavily male dominant. I always wanted to be right there alongside competing and challenging people’s perception of who I was. So after some thought, I began to plan my trip.
The whole thing started out as small talk with some close friends of mine, which because of circumstances, weren’t able to go with me. So in faith I bought the plane tickets, rented a car and started mapping out what my trip would look like regardless of who could or couldn’t go along with me. I wanted to see the most beautiful places along the West coast, but I didn’t want to just see them, I wanted to experience them. I knew little to none about most of the places I was going to visit, but with my GPS in hand and a backpack full of snacks and water I started off.
My first adventure was to go hiking in Yosemite. I’ll be honest and say that I knew very little about where I was going and because of that it must have taken me over an hour to find the trailhead of a path I knew even less about. The hike was long and hard, and I would classify that hike in my top ten hardest things I have ever physically done. It included three hours worth of switchbacks and such a drastic change in altitude that made it difficult to breathe from start to finish. What a magnificent journey to the top with the Lord. In the midst of the hike while exhausting myself physically, I fought through some events of the previous months that had exhausted me spiritually. We argued the whole way to the top, my sensitive heart begging for understanding of the things in my life that I considered unfair. The Lord gently spoke to me about my beauty and ability as a woman to be strong and push through the times in life when I feel like I can’t breathe and my legs burn so bad that they quiver, literally and metaphorically. Daddy showed me that the road less traveled tends to be more difficult but in the end I’ll stand in victory looking over the rocks that almost made me quit along the way. We ran down the opposite side of the mountain together, showing me a whole new view of what we had just hiked together so that we can look back on what we had overcome. How sweet He was to show me the joy of overcoming something so challenging, but He wasn’t done. We had more adventures to go on over the next few days, so with that I left for the beach.
I knew that I wanted to see more of the coastline than just a beach here and there so I planned to spend most of a day in the car driving from northern California down to Los Angeles in hope to find a few views and colors that I have only seen in pictures. I had no idea the surprise the Lord had saved for me. As I drove along the coast, not only did I get to spend five hours next to the water, but around every corner it not only became more beautiful, it became larger and more magnificent. A drive that should have taken me three hours, almost doubled because I had to stop and take in the beauty that the Lord created for me. After turning around every corner I would literally say out loud, “WOW, are you KIDDING ME?” It was so amazing and I still have yet to find words to describe the colors, cliffs, waves, and beaches that I saw. The Lord reached out in those moments and said to me, “These thoughts you have about the water and the beaches are the thoughts I have about you. Every new phase of life, circumstance that comes up, decision you make that pulls you closer to me makes me in awe of you my daughter.” Wow. The Lord thinks those same things about me! Sure, He finds me beautiful but He is also captivated by my thoughts, desires, and decisions to bring myself closer to him. I found that the beaches I had researched compared nothing to the places he had hidden for me along the way. I so badly wanted to be close to the water when I would stop along the drive, but was so high up on the cliffs that there never was a way to get down. The Lord knew the unspoken desire in my heart and took me to this phenomenal lookout hidden behind trees, and just when I was about to turn around finding yet another dead end cliff, he revealed a hidden path that I had missed reaching all the way to the beach. Oh, how He loves us. It was more than I could ever imagine and much better than all the pictures I had seen combined.
After finishing my drive the day before, I arrived the next afternoon in Flagstaff, Arizona to relax and prepare for hiking down into the Grand Canyon the next morning. That experience is something I will never be able to describe. The ever-changing views and steep cliffs just continuously bring glory to the Lord. There were many sweet moments with my Love, but the most prominent experience was when I had to walk through an all-natural archway carved out for the path to continue on down. The Lord spoke to me about a new season that He is inviting me into. It might look overwhelming and all of the surroundings could come crashing down at any time, but He has gone before me and made a way to walk right through. There is light and more glory on the other side waiting for me and it’s easy to walk through, all I have to do is take the first step. He was bringing Matthew 11:28-30 to life right before my eyes. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. I am the one who makes my life difficult when I don’t submit to the ways of the Lord. I so often fight the yoke that is leading me directly to God, causing me pain and turmoil because I think I know the way so I thrash about, trying to go on my own. If I would just submit to the Lord, He has made the way for me.
I think one of the biggest lessons I took away from this trip was that we as women are amazing, adventurous creatures who really are brave enough to take risks like these. But the point of me telling the story of my journey is not that every woman thinks that they have to do the same because our journeys all look different. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for little girls and women to look at the places I’ve gone and the things I’ve done and somehow be empowered to do the same. However, I think the bigger lesson I’ve been learning about being brave is just doing whatever the Lord is calling you into that makes you feel uncomfortable. Being brave is looking the fear of accusation, insignificance, vulnerability, desire and inadequacy in the face and telling that lie to kneel at the throne of the Father who created us to go into the unknown with Him. Whatever it is that you’re battling, face it head on because it requires you to be more brave and trust the Lord more than before. Do not doubt yourself, because just like 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
We as women have always been strong creatures, regardless of whether we believed it or not, but now we are redefining the way we perceive bravery. Bravery looks like going into battle for a friend who is believing lies about their identity and speaking words of life over them redefining their identity when they don’t have the strength to do it themselves. If in a relationship it looks like being more vulnerable with your significant other or if you’re single it looks like trusting and thanking the Lord that He is enough until they come into your life. It also looks like defending the weak when it makes us look like a fool, and apologizing when we are the ones who are at fault. It looks like a mother who decided to give up the opportunity to have a career to raise children up in the Lord, and it also looks like a mother working on her career and being a shining light in the corporate world. Whatever it looks like, you were created to step out and be brave, fighting hand in hand with the Creator of the universe. So take that risky adventure, make that decision to be vulnerable, stay at home, and speak up in prayer and petition before the Lord. In those moments you will find that you really truly are brave in ways you never imagined.