Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Courage to Change

June 17, 2024

Kris Camealy

Months ago, on a middle-of-the-night flight God answered a particular prayer with a singular, curious word and little else. The word, nimble, is not part of my regular vocabulary, so when it came into focus as I was praying, I knew I was not imagining things. I have held that word and rolled it around in my palm and wondered, and worried, and considered the implications of it. As that word continues to root into my life, I am watching long-tied bows come undone. Beautiful bows. Treasured bows, special bows—bows I thought might last longer—all loosed in a moment. 

When I close my eyes to pray, all I see are ribbons waving in the wind, like flags of surrender on the battlefield. 

These “bows” are aspects of my work. For ten years I’ve been building something lovely with God’s help, but this word, nimble, is more than an antiquated word—it’s upending the whole way I am used to doing things. Details are foggy, but what’s becoming clear is that God’s invitation is for me to re-imagine how I might do what I’ve been doing, but differently. 

I spend the next several months holding various treasured things up to God, asking this one? Or this one? I know things are shifting but I don’t know how, or what any of it means, exactly. I ask God my questions while I fold the laundry, make the dinner, drive kids to and fro. I ask God what it is He wants from me while I’m standing in dressing rooms at the mall or waiting in line at the coffee shop.

I look around at all of the people living their lives and imagine that everyone else knows what they are doing except me. I tell myself that their lives are sorted and organized while mine is coming unraveled in quiet ways, for unknown reasons, all because of a strange word spoken to my heart at 2 a.m.

I pray for clarity and wait for a response. I have disquieting dreams and wake knowing another bow has been untied in the night. Another white flag waves. Another project undone—another pivot. I wonder, how many more? My insatiable hunger for manna and fear of the unknown together claw at my belly, lodge under my ribs, squeeze around my heart. I am consumed with thoughts about the ridiculousness of all of this undoing. It feels foolish. Reckless, even. I say to God that I think all of this change is unwise, but as soon as I hear myself say that word—unwise—I hear almost audibly, “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom …” (1 Corinthians 1: 25 NIV) and, sighing, I shake my head because I know Truth when I hear it. I have lived that experience. I’ve more than lived it—I’ve built a whole life on it. But this season, those ribbons coming untied whip me like lashes. The surrender stings. 

I tell a friend I don’t know if I can let go. She tells me right back that, of course I can, it’s what I’ve spent years practicing. This is nothing new, she says, and I curse at the Truth of it.  I curse and don’t apologize for my choice words because they are exactly the right ones for this pinching moment of conviction, for this burn of laying it all down. She laughs a laugh of recognition, of comradery. She’s survived similar seasons. I am not the first person God has asked to do difficult things.

God has a long history of asking people to do absurd things for obscure reasons. Moses. Abraham, David, Joseph, Matthew, Mark, Peter, Paul, the rich young ruler—the list is so long that perhaps it’s better to count the reasonable acts of God—except that I realize even as I say that word, “reasonable,” that I am already trouble.

If foolishness and wisdom in God’s kingdom are defined differently, then surely I cannot know what to call reasonable or not. Reasonable according to whom? I am also aware that therein lies the paradox. What God calls reasonable, I deem foolish, and so we are at opposite ends of the table.

I wonder if at Babel, what was more confused than the language of many peoples was the language spoken between God and man. God means what He says, but I don’t understand.

My Bible reading plan has me deep in the book of Matthew these days and I’m making notes about the many times Jesus says to someone, “because of your faith ….” Faith seems to be the necessary criteria for any number of miracles, and yet the workings of God are not limited by or dependent on the faith of people. God is always the initiator. We can ask for faith to believe when we don’t, or we can lean on our own understanding, which is as good as leaning on a wet noodle. My own understanding tells me that this season of surrender is a recklessness that might be my undoing. And at the same time, that line echoes in the halls of my cracking heart—the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. I wonder whether courage isn’t a synonym for faith, or at the very least, that it takes a measure of courage to have faith—to live by faith. Or maybe it’s by faith that we have courage? I can’t tease out the difference here. Maybe it’s because they can’t be so neatly separated. 

My friend is right. This surrendering season is nothing new. Not to me, and it’s nothing new to those who have called out to Christ for centuries with both flimsy and firm voices. I’m reading Matthew, but I hear the echoes of the prophet Malachi, who, 400 years before Matthew, told God’s grumbling people to stop messing around with their offerings and “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse …” (Malachi 3:10, NIV). Everything. All of it. Hold nothing back from God. “Test Me in this,” God invited. Watch Me move on your behalf, the Lord said. God asked them to believe that He had good in mind for them, to believe that His hands brimmed with blessings, ready to rain down, if only they would trust Him, if only they acted in faith, if only they had the courage to believe that God was as Good as He’d proven, and promised to be. 

It takes courage to let go. It takes courage to swim upstream and do what doesn’t make sense to the judging eyes of the watching world. As I lean in to these miracle stories in Matthew, as I recount the requests God makes in Malachi, I remember that courage is accessible to me when I remember who I truly am. Remembering my own createdness, recalling how God calls me beloved, reawakens the courage that is already mine in Christ.

Maybe the courage I need for this season of letting go isn’t something that I have to bootstrap, but something I can lay hold of by the saving grace of God. 

Perhaps I should not write from the middle of this moment, when I don’t know where this will go or how God’s hand will tip. I am holding only breadcrumbs, scratching to believe that there is more to where these came from, that there is bread—manna I cannot yet see or taste. I am an ant scaling His footstool. I am afraid—and also, I believe in His Goodness. I am full of doubt, and also expectant and curious. I feel alone, but know better. 

I wonder what will become of these ribbons of surrender waving in the wind. I wonder whether the wind isn’t the very breath of God cooling my face, drying my tears. 

Letting go of beloved treasures isn’t easy. Walking away from what we know, what is comfortable and familiar, stings. But the thing about courage, the thing about faith, is that the more you practice them, the more you are able to practice them in all circumstances. Courage grows from courage. Faith swells from faith. Perhaps this is why Jesus used the metaphor of a seed as a picture of faith. Seeds grow. They produce fruit, which produces more seeds, which produce more fruit. Courage works similarly. Every courageous act becomes a foundation for the next.

The featured image, “Through Oak Leaves and Ivy,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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