"But I felt scared." I had just told my son he was brave, and that was his response. No, I'm not brave, he reasoned, because I felt scared.
We had left the doctor where he got caught up on some vaccinations. He and his sister have inherited a bit of their dad's needle phobia, so it's a little unpredictable how these visits will go. On that particular day, Ian was stoic.
Even while telling me he was scared before the appointment, he remained calm and attentive while we talked about it and prayed. During the appointment, he followed instructions and didn't fight or try to get out of it. He was so brave and I wanted him to know I saw that in him.
After his response, I told him that brave people can be scared too. In words that fit a preschooler, I told him that bravery isn't the absence of fear. Bravery is how we act in spite of that fear. We might still feel scared in some way, but are we going to press through or run away? That is what makes a person brave.
I saw his bravery again a couple weeks ago when we took the kids to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. Going to an amusement park with kids was kind of perfect for me because I get terribly motion sick on roller coasters (among other things). The last time I rode a Ferris wheel, I was 8 and felt sick the rest of the day. So I'm not entirely sure why I had no trepidation in volunteering to take a turn riding on one with Ian. It might have something to do with his bravery that draws out my own.
Early that morning, I woke up with unexplained anxiety and fear. I had shivers and felt sick to my stomach and couldn't stop thinking I needed to tell my husband that we shouldn't go on this last-minute trip. After showering it off and journaling it out, I decided not to give in to this irrational fear.
As the morning wore on, it became clear how irrational my fear had been. The weather was gorgeous with plenty of sunshine and a light cooling breeze. The rides our kids could do had hardly any lines, so they excitedly ran from ride to ride smiling more than I'd seen from them in a while.
Several times throughout the day of the kids having a blast doing something we don't usually get to do as a family, I got choked up thinking I almost gave into the fear. I was so close to calling off the trip and would have missed out on this incredible and necessary day for our family.
Finally, we had experienced enough, and we were wrapping it up with a ride on the Ferris wheel. Something about that anxiety turning into a beautiful day, I felt like this ride would be the cherry on top, despite all my past experiences getting motion sick.
Ian and I buckled into the seat together. He squirmed and cranked his head all around taking in the wheel and the nearby roller coasters. Coming around the top of the first cycle, I felt it--the losing my stomach sensation rising. Oh, no! I panicked, not now!
I loosened my muscles, stopped looking over the edge of our seat for the ground, and relaxed my gaze up to the sky and out to the horizon as our chair lowered. It worked--my stomach refound itself right where it was supposed to be, and I felt fine. I just needed to adjust my focus. That ride with Ian and the beautiful aerial view of city in the distance really was the cherry on top of a fear-smashing day.
I've shared a little in the past about bravery in new beginnings. These experiences add to what I'm learning about that, especially when our feelings shout fear and worry that crowds out our bravery and courage. Here's what I know...
God doesn't speak through irrational fear.This is coming from my own experience backed up by what I've read in God's Word. Whenever an angel came before someone in the Bible, they started with "Do not be afraid." Jesus himself says "do not be afraid" many times throughout the gospels. Along with being told to be strong and courageous, Joshua is told to not be afraid. Our fears and concerns might have something to tell us, but it's likely not God's truth, hope, and love.
Feelings come and go, but I can choose to focus on unwavering truth.I don't think it's a coincidence that a broomstick doesn't easily balance in your palm when you're looking down, or that focusing on your feet can make you slip off a railroad track, or that looking back at your raised foot can knock you over in a yoga pose, or that looking for the ground can make you feel motion sick on a roller coaster. It's fitting, then, that where we focus matters, and when our focus wanders to the wrong things, that anxiety results. When I need to refocus, I start with some of the truths I memorized while reading Beth Moore's Believing God: God is who He says He is, God can do what He says He can do, I am who God says I am, and I can do all things through Him.
Courage and bravery are when we act in spite of ill feelings.We might feel scared, but is that going to stop us from doing what we know is right? We might feel confused or discouraged or disappointed or anxious or worried, or any number of negative emotions. We can still choose to act in what we know is true and right and good, and when we step forward in faith in spite of bad feelings, we are choosing courage and bravery.
We can give in to anxiety or we can choose courage even we don't feel it. I am so thankful for the One in the sky that draws my gaze up and in doing so, steadies my feet... and my stomach. Keep on friends. Don't let those fears or feeling scared lie about the truth of bravery in you.
You are so brave.