Courage to Be Different

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“All these courageous things have made me different. Embracing the freedom and grace God has offered, it made me different—bold, strong, unafraid.”

If you’ve talked to me for more than 10 minutes you’re probably inclined to think I’m fearless. I’m not, but somehow I still give that impression.

I have not always been this way. As a child I was afraid of so many things, strange things, adult things. I grew up in a home built on fear, but I didn’t worry about monsters under the bed or going somewhere alone. I worried about getting the answers wrong at school and being a disappointment. I worried about getting in trouble at home. I worried years in advance. I even worried about learning how to drive—when I was only seven. I wanted perfection, but the world rarely cooperated.

I had an overactive sense of right and wrong. As I found my way onto the path of Jesus, I was intimidated by freedom and grace. Grace was not a concept I was familiar with and I wanted so badly to just get the answers right the first time, every time.

So when I moved to New Orleans to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina tore through the city, I was doing it because it was the “right” thing to do. I was 21 and I was miserable most of the time.

Then a group of volunteers came who changed my world.

Andrew Burchett and his high school volunteers from Chico, Calif. came to New Orleans and just loved on me. They challenged my ideas about God’s grace and freedom. They broke through my need for perfection—at least a little. They hardly knew me, but they loved me anyway and I couldn’t help but see the big, beautiful arms of Christ stretched out through their acts.

That week, I celebrated my birthday and I started a new tradition: every year for my birthday I would do something brave and new—something I’d never tried before. That year, for my twenty-second birthday, I played the only two songs I had ever written in front of a room full of strangers at an open mic night.

When it was over, I didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect. I was full of adrenaline and loving it.

The birthday tradition has endured. It has prompted me to invite strangers to a sushi dinner and get a tattoo on my back. I loved the tradition so much I made it biennial. I skinny-dipped. I shaved my head—twice. I asked a man on a date. (He turned me down, but that only bolstered my courage. Rejection didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would and I have learned to live boldly because of it.)

I even took a leap last year and posted this video on the world wide web.

All these courageous things have made me different. Embracing the freedom and grace God has offered, it made me different—bold, strong, unafraid (even when it’s not my birthday). I’m not sure when it happened, but most of that old fear has melted off. The girl who existed before 22 seems like an entirely separate person and I’m reminded that I have been made new.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Now I am fast approaching my birthday in February. I’ve taken on so many bold and brave acts, I’m not sure where to go from here.

I’m thinking about emailing a total stranger in Boston to see if I can meet him for coffee in celebration of my birthday. This is a stranger I only know about from a TED Talk I’ve watched a dozen times. I’ve convinced myself this is less weird, because we have a mutual friend—a real-life mutual friend. If he says yes, I will fly to Boston and go exploring for a few days and buy him coffee for making the world a better place.

But I haven’t sent the email yet, because I’m wondering if that’s just a little too insane—even for me. Maybe I need to think of a different brave birthday event. Maybe I’ll take a tango class, or color my hair blue or enter a pie-eating contest, or try to publish my children’s story.

I think I might go with the pie-eating contest—that’s less weird, right? What do you lovelies think?

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Image Credit: “Self-Portrait” by Sars Richardson

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