When I signed up to write for this lovely website, I told the ever-so-charming boss lady that she’d have to give me topics to write about as for some reason my brain isn’t coming up with its own. (I blame it entirely on the children, and the fact they have music practice and homework and all that other stuff to do, and it wouldn’t get done unless I was behind them cracking a variety of styles of whip. Ironically, their creative pursuits sap my creativity.)
But anyhow. The Topic.
The first one – about Masks - was easy enough. But the second one has been another story altogether. My first tactic to get out of it was to plead illness. It worked for about ten days, before I had to move to my second tactic: ignoring the assignment entirely.
The topic: Courage and bravery.
Ha ha ha ha.
What can you possibly say about being brave? And what can *I*, specifically, say about being brave? All I have to do is watch the news and see people setting out on boats and fleeing wars and finding food where there is none and protecting their children from violence and all the rest of it to realise that there is practically nothing in my life that I need to be brave about.
Who needs (much) courage when there’s petrol in the car, a legal system that (mostly) works and drinkable water in the taps?
I had no idea what to write.
And then it started to rain. Our area has had floods this week; floods, flowing rivers and landslides on mountain roads, trapping us in our tiny valley village.
On the first really wet day, the weather was miserable and water was everywhere, but I was invited to a Tupperware party and I felt sorry for my hostess. ‘No one will go,’ I thought. ‘I’d rather stay home and keep dry, but I’ll make the effort for her sake.’
About half an hour before I gathered myself and the five year old into the car, my friend posted on Facebook. ‘Our creek is up,’ she said. ‘It’s about 20cm deep across the causeway, but my husband says you can get across it in a 4WD. Or you can wait for him to take you across and back in our car.’
I knew the creek; other friends had lived in that house and had been trapped by it before, once even canoeing across to get to school. The husband says it’s okay, though, I reasoned to myself.
We drove the ten minutes out of town, slowing down for the streams gushing across the road, and avoiding the puddles collecting on the side, until finally, we reached the creek.
It looked fierce.
Really. It looked a lot bigger than 20cm. It was brown and flowing fast. And it was wide. There was a lot of water on that causeway. I ran things through in my head.
It would be easy to turn around and drive home.
They say you shouldn’t drive through floodwaters.
But I know what’s under it.
I don’t want to wimp out.
My dad would do this for sure, even in a smaller car.
Anyway, the husband said a 4WD would make it.
I took a deep breath and plunged on in. The car drove and the water rushed and there was a huge spray of wet across my windscreen.
About halfway through, I got the panics. “I might stop. Maybe the car can’t do this. Maybe the creek has risen. Maybe I’m gonna diiiiiieeee…”
I took another deep breath and kept my foot pressed down on the accelerator. Just gotta get through. Keep going. He says you’ll make it.
We made it.
I parked the car and got out, a little bit shaky. Inside, the group of women stared at me.
“Did you drive across?”
“I can’t believe you just did that.”
“Oh my goodness, I would never have done that.”
Yes. It appears that perhaps my father’s example of how to drive a car was not necessarily the best one to have followed in this instance. Nor would anyone have thought that I would have ‘wimped out’ if I had chosen to turn around and go home. At that point, the panic kicked in. The rain had not abated and I had visions of my five year old and I staying the night if the creek got any higher.
‘I’ll be back,’ I said, leaving the child playing happily, and turned around and hopped back in my car. As I drove through the creek once again, I realised just how ridiculous I had been. The water was insane. And I had no experience with creeks. (I have lots, now.) I waited on the side of the road for my friend’s husband to pick me up and take me back to the party. When I got into his car, he shook his head and laughed at me.
“You went through the creek?” he said.
“You said it was okay for a 4WD,” I said.
“Not the one you’re driving,” he said. And he chuckled all the way back to the house.
I bought Tupperware. I really had to, after all that. And we got home alright in the end. But it made me think about bravery and courage.
Bravery isn’t bravery unless there’s some risk involved. You only need to be brave when you have something to gain as well as something to lose.
The definition of courage is keeping on going even when you think you are going to fail.
You have to breathe before you do something brave. It gets you out of that natural, bodily ‘flight or fight’ response. Bravery transcends flight or fight. It goes beyond what we would naturally do; it requires a whole different, intentional mindset.
Courage can be pretty close to foolhardiness. But there’s a beauty in that. If you succeed, it’s incredible. If you don’t, you’ve got to be willing to be laughed at. It’s part of the risk.
It’s much easier to be brave when you have someone to trust. I knew my friend’s husband; if he says something will be safe, I believe him. To have someone strong who believes in you, or who makes a way, or who simply just says, “I’m there for you in this” may be all you need to have courage.
In one way, it’s easy to be brave in the big things of life. When the choices before you are ‘do this or die’, you’ll do the thing, mostly.
I said above that you don’t need to be brave when you’ve got petrol in your car and water in your taps, but I think I was wrong. Sometimes where it’s hard to be brave is in the small things of life; the daily turning up to a difficult situation, the being kind to people who don’t want to be kind to you, the work of consistently being thankful and other-centred. Living without much money takes courage; living with ill health requires constant boldness. Telling the truth to your spouse or your child or your friend can be risky; maybe you’ll lose the relationship, or maybe it will become deeper, higher and stronger from your efforts. You don’t know.
The challenge is not just to find the easy way out, the more comfortable sofa, the less confronting path. My Pop said, my whole life, “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” It’s a way of living that takes courage and boldness. When we blame others, that’s not brave. When we look for reasons why we can’t, that’s not courageous.
When we take what we know is true, and trust the one who said it, and see that the path ahead might not be easy, but it will be worthwhile, we can take a deep breath and begin on it. Bravery. Courage. Boldness. You need it, and I need it, and for more than just driving through creeks.
Deuteronomy 31:6-8 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
You can find more of Cecily's writings here.