Do you think of yourself as courageous?
That’s not a word I would have used historically to describe myself. “Outgoing” and “strong” are descriptors I’d choose, but not “courageous”. I have had this mental image of a courageous Christian as someone who speaks up in uncomfortable situations or does contact evangelism in hostile places. While I acknowledge the courage needed to do those things, I have come to the realization that courage is a quality needed by every one of us. “Be not afraid” is the commandment most often spoken in Scripture, and one that God has spoken over and over to me.
I once had a counselor tell me, “Gail, you are this on the outside and you are this on the inside, and these two people need to integrate.” It takes courage to go on the journey that counselor was calling me to―the journey of self-discovery. I want to look like I have it all together and I want to be liked by everyone. Who doesn’t?
As a woman in ministry with very few role models, I struggled with how I should present myself as I began my career. Along the way I realized that I needed to stop projecting a façade and be okay with how God had created me. I wasn’t ever going to be one of the guys. I wondered if opportunities would pass me by if I presented my authentic self instead of who I thought I was supposed to be. But I have found the courage over the years to resist being anyone other than who I am. It is a long journey without an end destination, but I believe being true to yourself is one of the primary ways to “be not afraid”.
Being true to yourself means being willing to speak up on some occasions despite the fear of how you might be perceived. I believe this is more complicated for women than men―I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes a man says something and is labeled “courageous” while a woman says the same thing and is called “pushy.” It is hard to know when to speak and hard to know when it is the best time to say something individually or when to say something corporately. There is an art to speaking up and I wish I’d gained some appreciation and ability to do that earlier in my ministry.
Over the years I have learned to trust that my voice and intuition are of value to the body of Christ. I look back and realize there are times when I stifled the voice of God and did not serve the kingdom of God by keeping quiet. I would have been well-served if I’d had a group of trusted friends around me who could help me discern when I needed to speak courageously and when to stay quiet.
I would like to invite you to think about two things:
- Are you finding the courage to be your true self, or are you projecting a façade of who you think people want you to be?
- Are there people in your life that can help you discern when to be courageous in speaking up?
Be courageous--and be yourself--and watch what God can do through you.