A daring life is a life of unmasking. Fear, I am discovering, likes to dress up as all kinds of things that sneakily stop us from making brave choices.
When I chose dare as my one word for 2014 I resolved to say yes to more opportunities that might not work out. That might not sound particularly daring but for someone as shamefully risk-averse as I am, it is a stretch.
Here’s an example.
Back in December someone tweeted me a link to a challenge from the development agency Tearfund. They were looking for three bloggers to travel to Cambodia and tell stories of their work there to help them raise funds.
I looked at it and I said ‘No’ – just like that.
No – I don’t write well enough to win. No – I haven’t got a big enough platform. No – it would be hugely presumptuous and big headed of me to enter something like that.
Anyway I clicked on the link and the headline over the details of the contest made me jump. It said: ‘We’ve discovered something pretty incredible’ and then went on to explain how to enter.
Incredible! is the title of the book I’ve been writing for the past two years. I felt the headline was a kind of sign that I should enter. Sorry if this sounds whacky. I do believe God sometimes speaks to us through words that have important personal resonance.
So I wrote my entry. It took me the whole of New Year’s Day. The more I wrote, the more excited I felt about what Tearfund is doing in Cambodia. Working with local people, they are empowering villagers in great poverty to find ways of improving their lives through small scale agriculture, carried out in community, with the support of the local church. If ever a project tapped into the things that I care most about, this was it.
I hit ‘send’. That was a daring moment for me, exposing myself to the risk of failure and rejection.
I thought and prayed about the trip almost constantly for the next couple of weeks. My prayers were embarrassingly close to ‘Oh God, if you fix this for me I promise I will never, ever, ever do anything naughty for the whole of the rest of my life.’ I really wanted that trip, like I wanted a pony when I was eight and a boyfriend when I was 16.
(You might think that sounds like a pretty immature way to think about something aimed at helping people out of poverty. You would be right.)
Soon after, on a Friday morning when I was sitting at my desk doing revisions on the book, the news came.
I didn’t get it.
I had dared and I had failed.
But I didn’t lose and here’s why.
:: By daring to enter, I saw my initial objections for what they were: fear and pride masquerading as humility. God preserve us from false humility. It stinks to high heaven – literally, I would imagine. The real reason I didn’t want to enter was that I didn’t want to risk losing. But look! I lost and I’m still alive!
:: I tapped into some really strong emotions. They weren’t all pretty but I’ve been learning lately that the scary feelings, the ones we’d prefer not to own up to, can be points of growth. That’s a whole other blog post but as an example I think that being prepared to look at our jealousy can be a way of discovering desires that we’ve been afraid to acknowledge. Desires that, handled properly, can actually lead to discovering more of our purpose in life.
:: I got inspired to improve my work. Winner Rich Wells’ beautifully illustrated blog, for example, made me want to get much better at using visuals and so I’ve started experimenting with a digital SLR camera, even though I know it’ll be ages before I can use it well. (Rich’s main blog is here but the one I really love is Daddy Daycare, an enchanting record of his weekly days out with his toddler.)
:: I feel better about myself as someone who tried and failed than I would if I’d listened to my initial objections. And despite not being a winner I feel more inclined to risk the next challenge, not less.
Do I still wish I’d won? Yes of course I do. Do I regret entering? Absolutely not.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection: open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Corinthians 6:11-13, from The Message version of the Bible)