Bold is a great big word. It’s only four small letters, but oh, my! It brings such freight. I don’t use it often, to tell you the truth. About 90% of the time, my use of the term is limited to clicking Command-B on my computer keyboard! I seem to be more willing to occasionally make a written word stand out than to actually be bold in my day-to-day life.
I wonder sometimes if I have ever been a bold person, someone who steps out and speaks up and makes a change. I know I am not bold physically—I KNOW this. I don’t like high places. I am terminally uncoordinated. Sports balls of any size or shape coming my direction are a source of terror.
I have a friend—one of my dearest friends—who is brazenly bold. She learned to kite-surf in her 50’s and is now an expert. Last year, she and a friend hiked from the Alps of Switzerland to the shores of the Mediterranean in France. This week, she left for Nepal to climb to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Yes, really. The base camp of Mt. Everest.
Uh, no thank you. Much as I love and admire her, that kind of bold feels cray-cray to me.
But as I think about other bold women I have known I soon realized that there are lots of different ways to step up, to step out, to take a chance, to risk failure, to make a difference. You don’t have to be willing to jump out of an airplane to be bold.
Some of the boldest women I know are the ones I’ve met here at SheLoves— Idelette, Tina, Kelley, Kathy, Helen, Bev, Erin, Cindy, Claire, Heather, Sarah, Michaela, Bethany—too many to list.So many stories of courage and the stick-to-it-ive-ness to realize dreams—often despite fear, hardship, and loss.
There are lots of ways to be bold. And every single one of those ways begins with a single step. One decision. One moment of courage. One instant of recognition that this—this idea, this project, this act of grace, this stand-up-and-be-counted moment—is doable. These women—and so many others—believed in possibilities and then they walked those possibilities into reality.
Every bold step begins with a baby step. Dramatic change does not happen overnight. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime or even more than a lifetime. Really bold change only happens when lots of different people take lots of different kinds of baby steps, all of them heading in the same direction.
In my lifetime, I’ve watched this kind of bold change happen with women in ministry. It is not yet true everywhere in Christendom, but our numbers are growing every day. This change has happened across denominations and around the world. It is a change that is still in process. Some of us are just beginning to realize what it means when women and men lead the church together. Some of us have been doing it for a couple of generations.
When I was growing up in the church, when I was newly married, even when I was a stay-at-home mom in my 30’s, I never saw a woman pastor. Never saw one. Thirty-five years later, my granddaughters cannot imagine women not being pastors.
That is a bold change that happened in one lifetime. In my lifetime.
I have been bold. I went to school in my 40’s to become a pastor and again in my 60’s to train as a spiritual director. I pulled all-nighters way past the age when I should have. I discovered I could preach and even taught others how to do it when I was twice as old as my fellow students.
But it didn’t feel bold at the time. Why? Because I’d started the whole process with baby steps. I began by going to conferences, reading books, having discussions, meeting women already in ministry, working as a volunteer in leadership in my local church. None of that felt bold. I was taking a step here, a step there. Eventually, those steps led to a whole new life and a new way of defining and understanding myself.
If you look at where I was and where I am now, it might look kind of bold to you. But it never felt bold to me. It simply felt right. Where do you need to take a step today? What feels right to you?