The word I've chosen is courageous.
It's not like I'm unfamiliar with the meaning of the word. After all, it takes a slight bit of courage to change careers, to move away from home, to complete a marathon. Yes, there's a little pat on the back before I tell you why I so desperately need to be more courageous.
In the 4th chapter of Gospel of Luke, just after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness we find these words:
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. (v.14-20)
I know that of all the life-giving, love-bringing actions performed by Jesus, this one seems to pale in comparison. Having just stood the test of the wilderness temptations, Jesus is back among friends and family. He is among those who know and love him. Yet, the story tells us that he is not the same. Rumors have spread and he has gone from temple boy to teacher and leader. Unlike the boy who wandered away from his parents to the temple teachers, he is now the one doing the teaching. Not only that, but the scripture he reads would announce his true identity. He would bring good news to the poor. He would proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. He would let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. These life-giving, love-bringing tasks would bring deliverance, but they would also invite much opposition.
Courageous (adj.): Not deterred by danger or pain; brave.
I'm imagining it took a lot of courage for Jesus to stand before friends and neighbors knowing that he would soon be identified as one who blazed a new trail - a new way to love God and neighbor - a new way to be in the world. Many who approved of his scripture reading on this day would deny even knowing him in the days to come.
As a mother, wife, pastor and follower of Jesus, I struggle to live courageously in ways that matter. Instead of stepping into my identity (which is unique to many, especially in this mostly conservative southern city), I too often shrink back. Instead of letting discomfort propel me forward, I allow it to push me back. I'd rather play it safe and save the real challenging work for someone more courageous than me.
Here's what I imagine stepping into courageous will look like in the coming year ... writing, running and sharing more; having more fierce conversations; saying no more often to things that matter less and yes to things that matter most; apologizing more when it's necessary and less when it's not; hosting less events and engaging in more long term/messy/challenging relationships; delegating the details so I can be more present; embracing my new life coaching skills and practicing them as often as possible. This is what I imagine, but I'm sure there's much to learn and discover as I begin trying out courageous.
It scares me to death, and that's why it know it's the word for me this year. I'll give some updates about what I'm losing and finding along the way, and also write more often to continue sharing my journey as a missional faith community pastor.