I am not brave.
There have been times (usually when there's a sheer cliff on one side of me) when my husband and I have been backpacking when I've literally been paralyzed by fear, unable to take a step forward.
I'm also extremely risk averse.
Knowing this, in 2013, I chose “brave” as my word of the year. I worked all year to practice courage, a discipline that served me well. And yet the truth is, as much as I want to be brave, I still struggle with actually being brave.
Because of my own journey, I was excited to read Annie Downs' Let's All Be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have.
In this book, part memoir, part self-help, Annie shares her quest to be brave. Along the way, she points out various examples of bravery, from her own life as well as from characters found in Scripture. Among other things, portraying various examples of bravery helps Annie illustrate her point that “If we are each as unique as the Bible says we are, then our calls to courage are each equally unique.”
Structurally, I love how many of Annie's chapters come in pairs. For example, in one she talks about saying yes; In the next, saying no. In doing so, Annie shows her readers multiple ways of being brave, some large, some small.
In one of my favorite chapters of the book, Your Words, Annie tells how she once shared with her counselor the belief that “I'm supposed to be fine that this is God's plan”. To that, her counselor responds, “The dreams you thought would come true in a certain time frame never did. You saw a life for yourself that you will never have. You can mourn that loss.”
Annie admits how much she needed to hear those words, words no one had ever told her before.
In the same way, I needed to hear those words and to be reminded that it takes courage both to have dreams and to mourn their loss. That, too, is bravery.
One of my lasting takeaways from Let's All Be Brave is this:
“I know my tendencies and fears and I also know my gifts and hopes. It's where those meet that I often find God cheering for me to make the brave choice.”
A week after first reading those words, I'm still thinking about them, contemplating what they might mean for my own life.
In short, Let's All Be Brave is a quick, worthwhile read. As a youth worker, it's one that I could easily see myself reading together with one of the high school girls I mentor. Beyond that, it's also a book that I recommend for any adult who like me, longs to be just a little more brave. Rather than leave you feeling like a failure, Annie's book will leave you feeling like, by choosing to “be brave at every turn”, bravery is attainable.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Let's All Be Brave from Youth Worker Journal in exchange for an honest review of it.