I was at Redbox the other day looking for a family movie to celebrate the last day of school. I saw an animated film with a red-haired girl on the case entitled Brave. “Hey, look at that,” I said to myself, “Brave is already out on video.” (I had seen the movie trailer in the theater recently.) “Maybe it bombed at the cinema. Maybe it went straight to video. Whatever. I’m getting it.”
Of course when I came into the house waving the disc triumphantly and yelling “I got Brave!” my kids laughed uproariously because I’d done this before – come home with some old, lame version of a new movie. Last time it was Thor — not the new, hunky film but some low-budget movie that Redbox thought it could trick me into renting because it had the same name. Well, okay, they did trick me, not just once but twice. We didn’t even bother watching the movie.
It did get me thinking about being brave, though. Because I need to be brave right now and I’m not. I know what to do but I’m not sure I have the courage to do it. To stand in my own truth, immovable. Like my hands, this morning on the acupuncture table. My acupuncturist was working on my shoulders with his little laser thing and he asked, “How do your shoulders feel when things aren’t right?” Tight and tense. “Okay, multiply that tight, tense feeling by four, and feel it in your whole body.” This is not pleasant. But I do feel curiously strong. “Now focus that feeling in just your hands. How does it feel?” Powerful. Immovable. “That’s the lesson for you right now. Our bodies will tell us what we need in the moment. How do you think that sensation in your hands could show up in your life?” Standing in my own truth. Immovable. Brave.
I went to the temple this afternoon. I sat with authoritative hands on my head and over and over again, heard words of truth and blessing and promise. My spirit soaked up those promises like dew because I recognized that for me, today, those powerful words were an infusion of courage, of perspective, of peace. I know what I know. Even when I am afraid to know it, I know.
This evening, I went to Powell’s Bookstore in downtown Portland to hear Terry Tempest Williams read from her new book, When Women Were Birds. Now, there is a brave woman. She read about how Mormon women journal their lives and quoted her polygamous grandmother. She explored the mystery of her mother’s blank journals, three shelves full, and looked deeply at the notion of Voice. She said she’s done only two things religiously in her life: kept a journal and used birth control. She read a long bit about abortion rights, which drew applause from the Portland crowd. And I listened and loved her beautiful words and wished I were brave enough to be the kind of Mormon woman who would choose to be childless because that was the only way to stand in my own truth, or who would champion a political cause even though it would likely garner ill will amongst my Mormon peers. Brave means being willing to stand alone. It means standing in my own truth, even when everyone around me disagrees. Brave is voicing the truth, no matter the consequences.
We go in and out of brave. Apparently, even the brave do. I was heartened to hear Terry tell of how long it took her to face the feelings that arose when she discovered that the journals her mother had bequeathed to her were all empty. Years, she admitted. Sometimes it takes a long time to conjure the courage to acknowledge the truth. To say it. Or write it. To do the hard thing. To stand immovable – shaking in our boots, perhaps — but standing, nonetheless, in Truth. Brave isn’t fearless. Brave is being true to the truth despite our fear. It’s telling the truth to ourselves first, then voicing that truth to others, no matter what they think of us or do to us. Sometimes brave is being silent. Like all those blank journals.
I don’t know if you ever feel brave in the middle of a brave act. When you raise your hand in Sunday School and contest a bit of Mormon folklore. When you march in the Gay Pride parade. When you choose to have a child. Or choose not to. When you choose to leave. Or to stay. To speak up. Or stay silent. Brave comes wrapped in fear. But it’s a celestial gift, worth the risk of opening. Because at the heart of Brave is Truth. And Truth is the only thing that can make us free.
Are you brave? How? Who or what inspires courage in you?