The Bravery of Returning

ll: Return again/ return again/ return to the home of your soul :ll

ll: Return to who you are/return to what you are/ return to where you are born and reborn again :ll

Return again.

We sang this in church the week before this past Sunday, and I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

First off, the tune is hauntingly beautiful, and when the congregation breaks into sections, half the room singing the first line, and half the room singing the second, it’s enough to stun me into the silence of just listening.

And then there are the words –

Return AGAIN.

Not just return….

But return.

Again.

I’ve been thinking about that lately. Returning AGAIN to the home of my soul.

It’s that again word that keeps getting me.

It’s such a grace-filled word.

It is a word full of promise, and permission.

Permission to explore.  Permission to question.  Permission to move away for a while – with the promise that there will always be an open door, a place to return to.

It’s that permission and promise that make this idea so very special.

How often do we hear of, or experience, bridges burned – doors closed – moments and opportunities that will never come our way again once we pass through [or over] them?

It can be petrifying.

Paralyzing.

I’ve had a serious fear of failure most of my life. Funny, I can remember the exact moment, the exact circumstance, that I became conscious of the fact that I’d FAILED. It was 1985, and I was in kindergarten. We were sitting at our little desks in our little chairs, and had just been handed our first worksheet EVER. We had to look at four drawings based on the nursery rhyme “The three little kittens who lost their mittens,” and put the pictures in order of what happened first, second, third, and last.

I could not, for the life of me, remember ever hearing that nursery rhyme. So I guessed as best I could, but got them all wrong.

Every. Single. One.

And instead of a colorful stamp and a scratch and sniff sticker like the other kids, I got a big, red F on the top of my paper.

I was devastated. Horrified. Embarrassed.

And terrified to show my parents.

Now I’m sure I’d been wrong, or messed things up, or didn’t do things properly before this. I mean, for pities sake, I was 5. I could barely tie my shoes.

But the thought of screwing up in school just paralyzed me.

The next worksheet that was put in front of me – made me cry.

That kind of fear, whether it’s in a 5 year old, or a 35 year old, can be absolutely oppressive.

Last week, as we were being called up the front of the church by Aija during our new member’s ceremony, she introduced us and said a little something about each of us. As I stood with the choir, waiting my turn, I wondered [slightly nervously] what she’d say about me.

When she did call my name, what she chose to say truly surprised me.

“Christin says nice things about me on the internet, and she’s very brave.”

Um. WHAT?

Brave?

That’s a new one.

I can just hear my sister Tracy laughing as she reads this.  Yes Tracy, she called me brave!

You have to understand – I’m the girl whose primary role has been to tag along after Tracy, taking photographs of her adventures and praying that she doesn’t DIE.

Tracy jumps out of airplanes, climbs rocks, goes diving, lives through bone marrow transplants – SHE is the brave one.

I’m a wimp who spent what could have been a perfectly pleasant summer afternoon on the lake cowering in the bottom of the canoe, holding on for dear life, crying my eyes out because I was terrified that we were going to tip over!

Brave has never been a word that I, or anyone, for that matter, has used to describe me.

And then, I started thinking about it.

There’s a quote that I absolutely love. I have no idea who said it [and I’m too lazy to google it at this point], or where it came from, but it has stuck with me over the past few years.

It says this:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Yep.

So….maybe she’s right. [I mean, let’s be honest – she usually is]

Maybe I’m braver than I think I am.

Maybe I’m braver than I remember.

I started ruminating on “quiet bravery,” and I began to realize that courage doesn’t always mean jumping out of an airplane, or climbing a sheer rock face, or even sitting on the seat versus in the bottom of the canoe.

Sometimes, courage is inviting the openly gay kid to officially join the youth group, even when the church board tells you not to “encourage that.”

It’s daring to use secular music in your ‘sacred’ dance class.

It’s writing and preaching things that make people uncomfortable, knowing that you’re in serious danger of rocking the boat.

It’s leaving a life that no longer fit, even though the future is uncertain and your resources are minimal.

It’s learning to find your way – standing on your own, fighting through, because giving up isn’t an option.

It’s giving church another try, even after you said that you were done with that, and then having the nerve to look the pastor in the face, even though the thought of her seeing into your heart terrifies you Every. Single. Time.

It’s writing about your messy, complicated, not-very-pretty journey back from spiritual starvation and abuse on the internet – putting it out there for the world to see, in hopes that it will give someone else the courage to speak up and come back themselves – to give them the gift of going second.

Return again.
Return again.

Return to the home of your soul.

Return to who you are. Return to what you are. Return to where you are born and reborn again.

I said that this year was going to be a year of self-care for me. A year of rediscovering parts of my essential self that have been pushed aside by the day to day stuff that is surviving this life.

It’s a year of returning.

Returning to church – and learning what a healthy spiritual community looks like.

Returning to art – and learning to appreciate the imperfections

Returning to writing – and re-learning to use my voice

Returning to the things that feed my soul.

Who I am. What I am. Where I am.

Born and reborn again.

 

That actually does sound like bravery.

 

And I guess that makes Aija right again.

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