You are capable of so much more than you know: Another life lesson learned in Uganda.
Throughout my entire life I have struggled with fear. I have always known fear, a close companion that turns out was actually a really crappy friend. But only in the past few years have I really become close friends with Courage. As we know, we cannot focus on the things we don’t want to become (i.e. if you spend your life saying “I don’t want to be like my mom,” you most likely will be just like your mom. It is all you have thought about or pictured.), so we choose courage instead.
Courage has become a constant for me; a discipline, a habit, an everyday teacher. While I was in Uganda, I started keeping a “courage list” because I was conquering so many things, both little and large, that scared me. This list included (but was not limited to):
- Traveling to Africa (I’m kind of a nervous flyer…)
- Riding a boda (a Ugandan motorcycle taxi type thing)
- White water rafting the Nile
- Preaching in a Ugandan prison
And each time, I survived. And was stronger and braver for it.
I realized as we rafted the Nile (which was, legitimately, one of the scariest things I have ever done and will ever do) that yes, sometimes we are brave and then the scary thing goes really well and we feel great. And other times, we do the scary thing and we fall out of the boat into crocodile infested waters that whirl you around like the inside of a washing machine and you feel like you most certainly are going to die. But guess what? You get back in the boat and you keep going. And it is no less courageous, even when you fail.
So we must choose courage, over and over and over again. We train ourselves to make the courageous choice. To live the big lives. To say no to safety and yes to risk.
One of the girls on my team made the observation that these beautiful Ugandan children had visitors coming and leaving, all the time. She noted that when we (the average American) have one person come into our lives and then leave, we lose all trust and are bitter and angry at everyone. But these children, they just keep on loving. They don’t allow anything to keep them from offering love. They don’t put up walls or keep themselves from us. They don’t “guard their hearts” in the way we do. They run to us and love like they have never been hurt before. I want to love fully and unconditionally like they do.
We know it, we say it all the time, but it is the truest thing: To love is one of the bravest, most courageous things we can do. We are always risking being hurt, but it is a risk worth taking. I have realized recently that I often tend towards apathy to avoid the appearance of rejection. But in the end, who wins in that scenario? Nobody. Because the only way we can experience true love is to be vulnerable and brave – and risk rejection. But it is the better way, the only way.
So I’m choosing to be brave and to love. To try to live like my sweet Ugandan friends who love wholly, often despite a pattern of abandonment. I want to love, as Old Dominion sings, “like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.” To trust that it is always the right choice to extend love – even if it is not reciprocated.
I want to be characterized by courage. For people to look at my life and say, “She never chose the easy way out. She chose courage. She took it, claimed it, as her own.”
And when we fail, we get back in the boat. We keep on paddling. We trust the God who holds us all in His hands.
I wrote while in Uganda: “A God who is big enough to be here in Africa with me is big enough for any problem, any trial, any circumstance I could ever face. EVEN THERE your hand will guide me (Psalm 139:10).”
He gives us every reason to be brave.