I was up a tree. Literally. On a two-foot square platform. Hooked to a rope above my head that extended from “my” tree out MANY feet to the next closest tree that didn’t look close at all. And I was supposed to walk across another rope to that next closest tree. Nuh uh.
Taking part in an Outward Bound course as a support person for a friend had seemed like a great idea months previously. I’d prepped by jogging a few miles, purchasing essential equipment from the local REI and praying a bit. But now, up a tree, with the person I’d come to support gone off to work on her own issues, I listened as the ant-size counselor below me hollered up coaching tips in an effort to help me own my stuff. Ugh.
Eventually I realized that the only way down was across. Shaking like a hairy dog coming out of a lake, I took one step and then another until I darted across the rope to safety. Toward getting down. Ta Da! For a short moment I savored my personal victory.
I’m trying to figure out what moves me to courage — and not just when I am high up in a tree! Why I choose courage instead of calm? Or connection? Or chaos? Or comfort?
Some women choose courage as a kind of self-improvement test. They run marathons, lose one hundred pounds, complete a graduate degree.
Other women choose courage out of heroism, a call to noble action. To advocate for the sex trafficked. To adopt an HIV/AIDS positive orphan. To stand and say what needs to be said in a moment of confrontation at work: I deserve equal pay. In the neighborhood: That’s bullying. Stop it. At church: I don’t think this is where God is leading.
When I examine my own “courageous” moments, rather than emerging out of a call toward something, I have to admit that they often came in a reactive response to something I didn’t see coming my way. Some unwanted eventuality that required a gut-level reaction. Such courage-producing realities usually start with an “un.”
The uncomfortable. When a seminary professor publicly teased me about hanging out with the male students (er…uh… there were very few students in those days that weren’t male — and most of them were married to boot), I stepped away from the embarrassment and into his office for a private chat.
The unexpected. When my husband incurred a health problem, I stepped away from my professional and personal schedule and into a regime of doctor and hospital visits.
The unimaginable. When my grandson arrived too early to survive, I stepped away from the reality of him breathing, moving, living on this planet with our family and into a season of grief.
No doubt, girls with guts are clearly those who respond to God’s call to whatever it takes and wherever he asks them to take it in their days. Girls with guts say yes to God’s call to risk.
And maybe – like so many women I’ve met in my life — girls with guts also choose a reactive kind of courage out of pure endurance. The ongoing trudge from hovel to water source and back — carrying two ten-gallon jugs — four times a day. The tenacious ever-vigilant and always-on-duty care-taking of a special needs child. The juggling of three part-time jobs just to pay rent in a hotel home and cook a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle-O’s soup over a hot plate. The showing up at work, day after day to work with a boss who’s unappreciative and coworkers who don’t care.
Girls with guts take the leap from the now to the next. Girls with guts trust God to provide in the unfamiliar, the unwanted, the unchosen. Girls with guts bend toward God and his desires in such a way that obedience births action. Proactive. Reactive. Active.
Like moving across a rope when up a tree.