The Arena is Our Invitation to Flourish

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Idelette McVicker -The Arena to Flourish4

The Arena is our invitation. The Arena is where our voices are amplified. The Arena calls us to show up, get up, stand up, be heard.

In July of this year, I was invited to participate in a two-day intensive experience of Brene Brown’s The Daring Way. Liesel Scott, a licensed facilitator of Brene Brown’s course, and her friend and co-conspirator Jess Basson, imagined a group of people wrestling with the content of Brene’s work in the context of some epic historic spaces in Durban, South Africa.

Imagine with me the place where Nelson Mandela voted in the first democratic elections in South Africa.
Imagine with me two schools where black leaders were raised up and groomed to lead in a free and democratic South Africa.
Imagine with me Mahatma Gandhi’s home during his early years in South Africa.
Imagine with me spending the night with a gracious host in the township of Inanda.
Now imagine spending two days in these spaces, asking: Where do I need to show up, be seen and live bravely?

Yes, I got to do that.

Container at Ohlange

Our family just happened to be in Durban for the week Liesel and Jess had planned the course. When the invitation came, I squealed. This is the stuff that makes my blood pump. I first asked my South African family’s permission to spend the two days away from them. My sis-in-law was so gracious and agreed. (We only get to see them every three or four years.) My parents agreed. And Scott knew I needed to do this.

There were eight of us gathered in a circle that first crisp morning on a hill in Kwazulu Natal. We sat in a container, introducing ourselves. Even that seemed just right. We were about to break right out of some of the paradigms, relationships, stories and beliefs that contained us.

What I didn’t know, was that right there, at the Ohlange Institute where we started our journey, there was an actual arena. It’s unfinished and it looks out over the hills and valleys of Kwazulu Natal and it was the perfect setting for our wrestling.

The Arena

If you’ve read Daring Greatly, you know that the book jumps off the quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship In A Republic,” delivered at the Sorbonne (1910), called The Man in the Arena:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Brene writes: “I’m constantly reminding myself that I can’t wait until I’m perfect or bulletproof to walk into the arena because that’s never going to happen. We just have toshow up and let ourselves be seen–that’s my definition of ‘daring greatly.’”

Our group of eight participants walked out to the arena and here Liesel and Jess had set it up with the many voices that represent the Cheap Seats, the Box Seats, the Critics and the Support Section.

Then they gathered us backstage, as if it were our moment to step out into the arena. We stood there, feeling what it feels like right before we step out into our moment. We felt the feelings that come at us right before we dare greatly.

I felt the resistance. I felt the hesitation. And then we just simply stepped out.

I was surprised that the strongest voice of resistance for me was the voice that said, Why do you even have to show up in the Arena? It said, The Arena is the System—it’s power politics. I found the resistance in me rising against what I perceived as playing to power, rather than resisting the empire.

So, I sat down with my journal and paused right there.

I could see how this was affecting much of my life.

How I hesitated in rising in leadership.
How I hesitated in publishing a book.

It was the voice that said showing up is feeding the Beast. I was tired of feeding the Beast.

I longed for the New Way of the Kingdom of God and I wasn’t sure that an Arena was part of that.

I sat in the warm Durban winter sun and processed these thoughts.

Is the Arena necessary, I asked.
Why do I need to show up?

Slowly the words came:

To tell a different story.
To give others permission to tell their stories.
Showing up in the Arena changes the stories that get told.
Showing up in the Arena empowers others.
Showing up in the Arena is an opportunity to subvert the System and love people.

I thought about Church and wondered if Church is a system …
But the answer that rose in my heart was this:

Church is part of God’s redemptive ways of being in our world.

To show up fully would require that I bring my best self. Is that succumbing to the system of excellence and performance?

No, I wrote. Bringing my best self is giving the audience the best opportunity possible to have a transformative experience. It is showing up with our best gifts and tools and creating opportunities.

But I knew there was something still missing from my dialogue about the Arena.

I parted ways with the small circle of South Africans who had given me such Hope.

The Daring Way crew

Jess, Liesel and Jo

I fell in love with these people.

Then I went quiet.

I had a hard time articulating our South African experience as we experienced it. So. Many. Big. Moments. Every. Day.

I believed clarity would come, but I was also nervous that I would be shrinking, instead of rising. I’ve done that before. But now, more than ever, is the time for me to speak out on the consequences of racism and white supremacy. This is the time to speak out on how we belong to each other as humanity.

This is my Arena moment. But I was still struggling—not wanting to take up too much space.

Then, this past Tuesday—back in Canada from our Big Trip—I crashed on the couch. After driving the kids all day, after drop-offs and pickups and back to school juggling and grocery shopping and getting dinner on the table and drowning in laundry, I was so tired, I crashed for a bit. I resisted the dishes in the sink and on the table and I stopped. I pulled a blanket over my body and I laid down for 45 minutes and fell asleep to the sound of my son and his friend playing upstairs. I had a nap. I had a glorious, much-needed nap.

When I woke up, these words also woke up with me: The Arena is for my flourishing.

The Arena is my invitation to flourish.

As much as the Arena is our invitation to contribute to the world and shape the conversation and offer our gifts, the Arena calls us to rise … It calls us to step up, get up, rise and become who we’ve always been. Becoming that woman doesn’t happen in the cheap seats or the back seats. It doesn’t happen when we shrink back. It happens when we stand in who we fully are.

When we step out into the invitation of the Arena, we become who we were always meant to be. 

We become who we are meant to be when we hear all the voices that tell us we’re not good enough, expert enough, smart enough, educated enough, skinny enough or articulate enough and we do it anyway. We become more of ourselves when we rise, in spite of those voices. We become more of who we truly are when we rise, especially when we don’t feel like we have much to offer. Rising is resistance to the voices that say women should be seen and not heard. Stepping up into the Arena is our liberation as much as it is the liberation of those who need to hear our stories.

We heal together.
We become liberated together.

The Arena isn’t just about the audience. The Arena is about us becoming who we were always meant to be.

When we rise and speak up about the things that truly matter, we all benefit.

The audience and the one who dares greatly. Those who long to hear and the one who dares to step into her Arena.
It is both.

It is mutuality.
Ultimately, it is all, all, all about our collective human flourishing.

Now I know, the Arena is all of our invitation to flourish.

____________

Reflect:

Where are you called to rise in your life?
What do you imagine is your Arena?
Where do you need to dare greatly?

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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  • Laesa Kim

    This is brilliant Idelette. Thank you for putting your experience to words. Yes, it’s all about connecting humanity. One rising and then lending a hand down to pull another up. Rising into the fullest you, and inspiring others to do the same. Yes, let us all flourish, together.

  • Melaney G Lyall

    So thankful for you my friend! Looking forward to this season stepping out into our communities and cities! an adventure for sure!

  • I’ve never actually read Roosevelt’s speech until today, so thank you for the gift of those words!

    I would say that my “enthusiasms” and “devotions” were tied up in family and the local church until I felt a stirring to write, but they are still my main Arena (and certainly where I strive and fail the most), and I’m trusting for grace to “dare greatly” there and to be available for whatever else God introduces as my family moves in ever widening circles away from this nest.

  • Monica

    Love this post! It is clearly confirmation of what I wrote in my prayer journal last night. God has been whispering in my ear, “Rise! Rise up!” since January. Last night I felt such a strong sense that now is the time for me to step into my arena and be the woman God created me to be. To rise, I know I must put my trust in God because it is by His power that I get to minister to women about their value and worth, that they deserve to live their dreams and be the women God created them to be. It is time for so many of us to step into what He has called us to. I think of Joshua 1:9 and Philippians 3:12-14. Be bold and courageous, and continue to press on to what Christ has called us to. May we each be faithful in this. Thanks, Idelette!

  • Your writing always leaves me feeling tingly. It always leaves me feeling ready to rise to whatever I haven’t felt enough for. This is no exception. Thrilled for your powerful experience in the arena, and grateful to read your words, as always. Thank you.

  • Sue Hay

    Wow and YES. In rising you call us to rise too. I’m with you!

  • Lisa Scandrette

    Thank you for daring to rise up and for encouraging me by your example to keep stepping into my arena as it makes itself known!