Be Courageous? It’s worse than you thought

We all dream to be courageous, brave and resilient to life’s pulls and tussles. But, exactly what constitutes courage seems foggy and well, subjective. So, it’s not quite the topic we explore, nor is it a virtue we pursue. But, then, one day a qualitative researcher (by this we mean she studies the nature of something, not the numbers), by the name of Brene Brown studied shame and fear. After 12 years of research, and over 11000 pieces of recorded data, she could with absolute confidence report what created courageous people.

Wait for it…

It’s not quite what you thought, in fact it’s worse than you thought…vulnerability.

You heard right. Be vulnerable to be courageous. As defined by her research we are called to enter into “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” To show up despite the risk and uncertainty. Vulnerability according to research is the greatest measurement of courage.

But isn’t the story we have told ourself is that vulnerability is weakness? To feel is to be weak.

How do we reconcile our theology with her research? Is this a call to biblical courage?

Science catches up with the Bible

It’s not surprising to find data or research catch up with the wisdom of God. His way of life is embedded in the fabric of our being. So, when we explore what it means to be truly human, his word, his tapestry for a flourishing humanity, is right there. It’s almost like when we make a discovery, his word can boast and say “I told you so.”

Here is what I found.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses”


“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom,”


“Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 CORINTHIANS 11:30

Paul, one of the most courageous Christians of all time, excercised great courage, because he owned his weakness. He declares he is weak and fearful. He declares he is made to fall. He insists on boasting: literally to talk excessively of his vulnerbality.

Courage comes from humble dependance. Not grit. Paul doesn’t beat his chest, say ‘hoo-haa’ and preach that he can do this whatever it takes. He exposes himself, and in doing so becomes one of the most courageous figures of all time.

What does this have to do with Come Away?

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

In order to venture into new territory, to what Brown calls ‘a dare to be great’, we need to be willing to be vulnerable.

Come Away was the birthplace of a greater story, but for now the story I dare to share with you, is that I pursued it. Having handed myself over to serve the kingdom of God, I was drawn to dare greater for God. An arena I didn’t want to venture; but God was unrelenting in the call.

I got to a point in my life where every significant puzzle of my life started coming together to form a picture, and this was Come Away. I got to a point where in fear I felt like, ‘this is was what I was made for’. ‘I felt the conviction in my bones’ is the only way I knew how to articulate my experience.

Every person dreams to have such resolute clarity, right? Let me tell you, when you get there it’s not as exciting as you imagine. Because with a clear conviction in your hand, the reality is that you then need to step into the arena. And when you get in, it’s not pretty.

A Dare for God’s Greatness

Teddy Roosevelt said: “The man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;”

Stepping into the arena means there is huge cost. It’s not if, but when.

Starting Come Away has come with great risk, great exposure, and oodles of uncertainty. Despite it’s glaringly obvious need, it has been frought with critics, valid and invalid. I’ve been pulled, stretched, questioned, criticised. I’ve had to fight for my integrity and motivations. Laboured at great expense to my personal and financial well being. I have been encouraged to keep going, and “politely” challenged to step down. I am the least likely individual to start a new endeavour, and yet have the weight of conviction in my heart and on my shoulders. And yet has God ever used the most likely candidate? I have questioned my heart, my temperament, my gifts – like having a mid life crisis handed to you by critics.

I have never felt weaker.

But it’s not only the weakness inflicted by those around you. It’s my own fears, insecurities, sin, pride, limitations, distractions, faithlessness and the list goes on. I am plagued by my own inadequacies to step out in radical service to God.

The Life that Counts 

God is not surprised that greatness for the kingdom marrs our lives with blood, sweat and tears. In Mark 8:31 Jesus says the call to live and be great is a call to serve and even die. Greatness for the kingdom is brutal.

But as Teddy Roosevelt also said:

“Those who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”

I don’t want to waste my life mastered by the hardship and lean into comfort rather than risk.

What I want to know at the end is that the critics in the arena didn’t rob me of the courage to dare greatly for Jesus. That I would get to the end of my life and refuse to show up for the call to serve and die to myself for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Who Cares?

Today, I made a courageous decision to share our frailty and not our strengths. Who will you become in our arena?

As women who are a part of this community, I want to ask you to stand alongside us, to walk this new venture with us. To bear with our weaknesses, to carry us in grace, to dare with us. To help us pursue the greatness of God, as we impart his life-changing word into the hands of thousands of women.

We will fall, we will stumble, we will err in sin, we will crumble in fear and weakness, but we need thousands of like-minded women to grow this ministry. We need you to care enough to rise strong with us in the Lord and in his great power.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” PROVERBS 19:21

By | 2019-07-15T19:24:24+02:00 July 15th, 2019|Talk|1 Comment

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One Comment

  1. Brenda Daniels July 16, 2019 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    This was very courageous Shirley. I really liked your use of the word vulnerability. I could feel some weight falling off my own shoulders as I read it. We live in a world where it’s required of us so much of the time to be ‘bold and courageous’. But we aren’t told to be bold and courageous by being vulnerable. Thank you.

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