"She is a brave woman."
My husband spoke the words thoughtfully, knowing full well what he said, but my heart was still breaking for my friend.
"But over twenty miscarriages!" I sobbed, unable to stop the tears. "No woman wants to be brave for that reason."
He was right, and I was right. No one is ready to be brave, because bravery demands so much more pain than we ever think we are capable of enduring, and so much more trust than we dare to give. And yet we are called to be brave.
The first time Paul called me brave, I shot him a sharp glance. "Brave? (Laugh) I'm not brave."
"Bravery is doing the right thing despite your fear."
"Paul, I was acting because I had to. Choosing otherwise would have been dangerous. But I was terrified the whole time, and I'm not sure I was even trusting God. I was just...doing."
"But that's the point," Paul persisted patiently.
Despite your fear. Despite your pain. Despite your exhaustion. Despite your questions. Acting without waiting for the feelings of courage or confidence to arrive. Acting because it must be done. Because it is right.
I look around me and I see brave women.
There is the friend who endures miscarriage after miscarriage, grieving and remembering every single child lost.
There is the friend who still hopes for a child, even after years of prayer and fertility treatment.
There is the friend who awaits a clearer picture of her future, with hopes of a family of her own and a vision for God's purpose for her.
And these women still show up. I see them at choir practice, at church on Sunday morning, at my home for visits over coffee. Whatever is going on in their personal life, they keep getting out of their homes and out of their own inertia and isolation. They keep investing in other people, offering their service and support, looking for another sister with whom they can walk this raw and rugged life in Christ-likeness. Even out of their own dryness, they give anyway, and they find that God gives the water of life through them.
The world throws around the world "brave" a lot, to the point where you can be "brave" for just about anything. But I am talking about the one kind of bravery that is true, the one kind of bravery that bears real and lasting fruit.
A woman is brave when she lifts her eyes from her own life and its hardships, fixes her eyes upon the Lord, acknowledges the woman He calls her to be in His Word, and says, "Today, I will act like that woman."
She might not feel like that woman, but the Lord still gives her power to act. Even when her actions are not perfect, He is not slack to remember her willingness and her trust.
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
For years, I could not connect with the "virtuous wife" of this passage. To me, it sounded like she was the unattainably ideal woman, who looked like no one I knew and no one I could aspire to be. Serene despite all suffering. Gracious despite all persecution. Trusting despite all obstacles.
Then I learned that the word "virtuous" meant "valorous," and it changed everything for me. This was not the picture of some angelic, beatific, impossibly saintly kind of woman. This was the picture of a woman dusted with hardship, marked by the scars and wounds of battle, exhausted with her journey, offering a cold cup of water to the woman next to her. This was a swordmaid who would not let the failures and frailty and futility of life define her femininity. She was a King's daughter, and a King's daughter would stand up again, and again, and again.
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.
We know the end of the story of Esther, but she didn't. When she went before the king, for all she knew, he would refuse the scepter, and her attempt to save her people would come to nothing more than the quick swing of a sword over her head.
We know the end of the story of Ruth, but she didn't. For all she knew, she would care for her mother-in-law as a husbandless and childless woman, in a land of people not her own.
We know the end of the story of countless of women that we call "brave," but they did not choose the stories that made them brave. Those stories were given to them and they had to walk through them blindly, as we walk through our stories now, trusting that the Lord will accomplish good from it.
None of us want the things that make us "brave." All of us reach the point where we don't even want to be brave anymore. It just plain costs too much.
I read the Gospel of Mark recently, and I read of Jesus' bravery as if reading it for the first time.
Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.
In my struggles, I only feel forsaken by God. In His hour, Jesus was forsaken. He literally had every assurance of His Father's presence, approval, and mercy stripped away from Him. The Father He had never offended, never disappointed, never had a moment's disagreement with...was gone. Inaccessible. His enemy.
In my finite mind, there are no words or reaches of thought that can comprehend the enormity of Christ's bravery on my behalf. He did not want the story that made Him brave either, and yet He chose it because it was His Father's will to redeem you and me. It is because of His bravery that we have any hope that our stories will end well. It is because of His bravery that we know how to be brave. It is because of His bravery that His joy and glory becomes ours.
Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Esther saved her people.
Ruth married a good man and became part of the lineage of the promised Messiah.
And the countless women you call "brave"--their bravery was worth something to you. What is yours worth to someone else?
So we pray when we receive no answer. We act when we do not know the outcome. We get back up when we have been crushed to the ground. We love when we have been broken. We give out of our own lack.
And God writes the story, as the Author of our bravery.
Be brave and valorous, woman of God. Your story is not over yet.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.