I Thought I Was Brave {Learning to Redefine Courage}

by Andrea Kolber


When I was six years old, I entered a talent show and told them I had a dance routine to perform (I didn’t), and I went up on stage and made it up as I went. People told me it was good. I thought I was brave.

image via Unsplash

image via Unsplash

When I was in college, I thought I wanted to attend law school, become a social justice lawyer, and save the world (I didn’t). I thought for sure that was brave.

All through my childhood, I fantasized about the amazing things I would do with my life.

I would be important!

I would save the world!

I would be brave!

I used to think bravery meant performing a big, fantastic act. I thought if I could do something noteworthy, something extraordinary; something that would definitely help another, that would be brave.

But in this season of my life, I find I was wrong. I don’t want to discredit the way bravery can, certainly, include situations where we put ourselves in danger, or feel tremendous fear, or use extraordinary strength.

Yet, I see now bravery is often about doing the small act of service or obedience right in front of me. It is frequently presented as the thing God is gently or not so gently asking of us, and our faithful leaning into that calling.

I see now, courage is almost always small, first; usually, it's woven into our decision to live our ordinary lives, even when they're hard.  

And this holds true in my life now, too. These days, instead of doing what I perceive to be more significant—using my masters degree, running my counseling business, creating volumes of writing—I am sitting at the computer typing with one hand, whilst rocking a baby and wiping the face of my five year old. My eyes are tired as I was up through the night with my youngest and I have soothed and shushed that beautiful baby more times than I can count in the last few months. For most, this would not be viewed as brave or courageous.

But may I share with you a vulnerable thing?

This is extremely brave for me; choosing to step back from my established career for a season was a terrifying decision. The reason it’s scary, is hidden in a remaining fear that occasionally creeps in: maybe I’m not valuable and worthy. Maybe everything that I believe about myself; that I was created in God’s image and that my life is redeemed in Jesus and I don’t need to strive any longer—is wrong.

Maybe, I do, indeed, need to earn my value.

Maybe, I need to keep hustling to prove I’m loveable.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Even as the heartbeat of why I write is about living as the beloved and understanding my value is hidden in Jesus— I occasionally circle back to wondering if it’s ever been true.

Do you know the feeling?

I still wrestle with the idea that my life would matter less if I don’t do something appearing noteworthy, rather than just the ordinary. I share this with you because it’s okay to be unfinished, y’all. Years ago, I would have said if I’m doubting this then none of it was true. Or, I’m a failure.

But instead, I’ve learned this is exactly what courage means, to keep going even in the discomfort and the tension. I’m trusting again, that all my experiential learning and healing was real; that I don’t have to hustle for my worthiness. I’m believing even if no one sees what I do for my kids or the words I write, if God has called me to it, living into that calling is brave.

And so, this is my act of courage for now: listening and acknowledging, again, that my value does not lie in the perception of what I do, but rather if I am called to it. My brave act for now is doing the small and important work of obedience to the right now call on my life: parenting, living whole and writing.

Reader, I don't know what ordinary hard things you are doing in your life today--but I pray you have the courage to keep going. 

"Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9 MSG).

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What does brave look like for you today?