It was supposed to be a compliment, but I couldn’t disguise my furrowed brow. “You’re like interstitial fluid,” the conference attendee said. Can you see my confusion? He went on to explain the medical definition, and then summed it up with, “You hold everything together.”
HOLDING THINGS TOGETHER
He exaggerated of course, as I was just one staff member overseeing our annual conference. His encouragement, albeit weird, did make a difference though, because if my memory serves me correctly, we were navigating the conference through the season of SARS in 2003. Things needed to be held together with as much normalcy as we could muster.
I think about that now, and I see that holding things together today requires a bit more courage, because I have more information then I did 15 years ago. More information is good, but it can also overwhelm. Hearing things like flattening the curve, being A-symptomatic, search for a vaccine, daily count of deaths and contractions, and theories around antibodies can unsettle anyone, but when you compound that with putting your life on hold, (which at times feels like house arrest) it is a bit much! So, I think “holding it together” aptly describes my experience.
Maybe it’s the Memorial Day holiday, but I’ve have been reflecting on courage and bravery. As I see it, it takes courage to hold things together. Certainly, there is no comparison to the valiant sacrifice of our military heroes, but I believe there are all forms of courage. What is courageous for me, may not be courageous for you. The mechanics though, are the same because courage is a decision, and bravery is the action. Regardless of what bravery looks like to you or me, we all make a conscious or subconscious decision that impacts that action. As a result, bravery is the behavior that comes from the decision to be courageous; and that decision is birthed from our values or convictions.
If you know me, you will know that I’m not prone to fear and anxiety, but I am really susceptible to discouragement. And in this season, I’ve needed to make a conscious decision, each day, to rise above my discouragement, choose to be courageous, and hold on to the hope of my tomorrows. Sigh…, this is the hard work of emotional bravery… also known as emotional resilience.
My decision to be courageous actually began a year ago when I left a job I loved to fully move into the coaching arena. My year started off with the 100 days to Brave devotional by Annie F. Downs, and a necklace I purchased from Leading and Loving It that says, “courage”. These last 365 days have been an act of bravery in response to a God-given conviction. That conviction required obedience, and that obedience involved a full commitment to courage. Each day – every day – I have had to decide to be courageous, to push on, to brave action, to persevere…or not to.
ESSENCE OF COURAGE
It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I experienced the nuances of courage, which revealed a vulnerability I hadn’t seen coming. I was well aware that the essence of courage was the ability to do something that frightens you. I even felt pretty confident because I thought I properly prepared myself for my biggest fear: failure. As much as I hate failure, I was able to get past it because I knew God had called me to obedience, not to success. The surprise however, was that even as convicted as I was that I was called, and that God was with me, I didn’t always feel convinced, and I didn’t know how to navigate that.
The root of the word courage is tied to the heart, as the seat of emotions, but also includes the state of mind, which enables us to meet danger and trouble without fear. It’s an inner strength that is a combination of your heart and mind; an interplay of your feelings and thoughts, which is the core of emotional intelligence. The problem was that I kept getting blind-sided by an aspect of courage that I hadn’t prepared for.
Courage doesn’t only deal with fear, it is also something you can give or take. To give courage is to encourage: to bestow support, confidence, or hope to someone else. To take courage is to discourage: to cause someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm. Every day we choose to have courage, to give courage or to take courage. We not only make these decisions related to others, but we do this internally, with our self-talk or inner voice.
During “life on hold” I discovered how susceptible I am to depending on external assurances, and succumbing to internal disparagement. The scales weren’t even close to being balanced, because I didn’t stand a chance against my inner critic. The result was that I kept stealing my own courage. The interplay of my thoughts and feelings were so at odds that I grew weary and discouragement took hold. I’ve described it as slogging through days with little or no traces of inspiration or motivation – yeah, that’s what discouragement looks like on me.
DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED
I’ve recently felt an affinity to Joshua; the leader God chose, after Moses, to lead the Israelites into the promise land. He was called to fill very big, very intimidating shoes! In Deuteronomy 31:7 Moses prepares Joshua for his leadership by telling him to be strong and courageous. In verse 8 he says, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” God assures Joshua 15 verses later, that He will be with him and to be strong and courageous. These are quite convincing assurances, yet you’ll see in Joshua chapter 1, God tells Joshua three more times to be strong and courageous; and then at the very end of that chapter the Israelite leaders tell him the same thing.
It seems to me that Joshua felt the conviction, but wasn’t yet convinced. He knew he was called, yet he seemed shrouded in an insecurity that drained his courage. Early on it seems he is plied with encouragement to overcome this, then by chapter 10 it appears he has, because he is now the one telling the Israelite leaders to be strong and courageous.
Faith is what fortifies our convictions, and influences our decisions. It resurrects the calling, promises, or inner inkling of God, after being dashed by discouragement, disappointment, doubt, or confusion. Faith is what holds everything together – it is the interstitial fluid that affirms our conviction, fuels our courage and activates our bravery.
Faith runs on God’s truth, it’s not impressionable to external assurances or internal battles. It aligns us with His will and delivers the hope, perspective, or conviction that can take on discouragement and other sordid brain games. Faith in who we are in God’s sight changes our internal dialogue from disparagement to kindness, and places external assurances in their right place. It’s what holds us together when we aren’t convinced, or when we don’t know what our next step is, because it invites the presence of God to help sort it out.
I’m still not as convinced as Joshua. In all honesty, I’m closer to chapter 1 than I am to chapter 10, but I’m still choosing courage by trusting in God. Trust is the active part of bravery…trust motors emotional and spiritual resilience. Trust has me looking for external confirmations from God, rather than wholeheartedly depending on external assurances from others.
The challenge, however, has been discerning exactly what to trust as confirmations from God. Even though I know what my calling is, I can still get stuck in figuring out next steps, or even seeing what that is supposed to look like. Gratefully a friend shared 7 signs of confirmation from God, which has encouraged me, and which I will be sharing with my email family, in hopes that it will encourage you as well. These confirmations are helping me wade through the bouts of discouragement and are giving me the faith that my God-given conviction needs.
Joshua needed convincing too and God obliged. While God told Joshua to be strong and courageous three times in chapter 1, God mentions what He will do eight times in the first nine verses. Subsequently between chapters 1 and 10: spies were protected, the Jordan river was parted, angels appeared, Jericho was destroyed, battles were won, and the sun stood still! It gives me hope that God wants to confirm and convince us of our calling. He alone can shatter our discouragement, and He does so with faith, both ours and His; in the interstitial spaces of our soul.
So today, I hold tight. Today, I persevere despite my insecurity, uncertainty, and fatigue. Today, I write these words: I choose to be courageous. Tomorrow may look different, but until then, I will hold things together with an enduring faith that I can’t take any credit for.
Take a chapter or two (or ten) from Joshua’s story, and be encouraged. He chose courage and acted bravely because of his conviction to honor and obey God. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Even though the struggle of my journey continues, I will do my part and choose courage. I will preserve my conviction to serve God, seek confirmations, choose emotional resilience and liberally apply self-compassion; while depending on God to do His part…to hold everything together!
Your calling requires courage! As a Christian Life Coach, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you’d like to get unstuck, then let’s chat. I’d love to support and encourage you!
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