Saturdays are usually synonymous with lots and lots of soccer. All of my four children play which means we are on the pitch from sunrise to sunset. I really enjoy the time (mostly) we get to spend out in the sun, watching our kids do what they love, and making connections with parents (the ones that aren’t screaming like it’s the World Cup at U5 soccer matches. But that’s another post…).
As usual, I took my daughter to an away match, while my husband took the boys. Lo plays with an academy team, while her little brothers are all still in recreational league (which is much less competitive and holy geez less expensive). I was sitting on one end of the field (away from all the World Cup-yelling parents which, I will confess, I join in on if I don’t relegate myself to the “corner” of the field). I had my toes in the grass, kicked back in my beach chair, watching Lo play, sipping my not-so-hot coffee, and texting one of my friends about her sister’s cancer treatments (who is a mother in her early 30’s, 1 year old baby, married only 4 years now in the fight of her life with stage 4 Glioblastoma… a cancerous brain tumor).
Ash is a dear friend, one of the very few ride-or-die kind of friends I have. We’ve been texting a lot, as you can imagine. She is going through the darkest days of her life trying to process her sister’s disease. Only day’s before, she told me about a young pastor we both knew that was diagnosed and died of the same type of brain tumor in the span of only a few months. I had also spoken with two other people, from different spheres of my life, who had young family members desperately struggling through treatments with this same type of cancerous brain tumor.
I should say here- I am a deeply empathetic and highly anxious person (the combination is horrible so I’m medicated, legally). When it comes to dealing with illness and death, it’s not that I can’t talk about it or have some phobia with hospitals or funerals, but these topics take me to a very deep place inside myself. It sounds strange… and I really don’t have great words to describe it. Because all these folks are/were around my age and many have children my own kids’ ages, it makes me place myself in their shoes. And I can’t stay in those shoes but seconds usually, before my anxiety kicks into high gear. If you are a parent, a mother-- you know this feeling. When you hear about tragedy involving a mother or a child, your mind can’t help but go there. But not for long. My kids. What would my kids do?
My phone buzzed it’s R2D2 beeps, signaling another text (yes, Star Wars fan here). I looked down to see a text from Ash and all it said was, “Did you see that Rachel Held Evans died?” Of course, I didn’t know her personally. I’ve read some of her stuff, enough to know we were extremely like minded on lots of issues. But my body reacted in such a way it surprised me and scared me too. I began to tremble in my legs and hands. An extreme sense of dread and sadness kind of enveloped me. I texted my husband and told him. He quickly sent me an article about her last few days, which only made things worse. As I read about her life and passion for theology and writing, it seemed so similar to my own life. I had to get up and walk away from my phone. I took some deep breaths and tried to refocus on my daughter’s game.
It bothered me, deeply, for days. I follow Glennon Doyle Melton & Abby Wambach, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Brene Brown, and other inspiring women who write the same type of stuff as RHE and many were personal friends of hers. But friends, acquaintances, and the media all began saying the same thing “her voice is one that was needed and now there is a void.” I knew. In that moment, I understood what was aching and pulling and nearly exploding out from me. There was now a void- a void of a powerfully prophetic voice that taught us so much, inspired so many, restored hope, showed grace, shared love, but spoke truth.
I knew, at that moment, because I’ve been toying with the idea for the last 15 years but four babies kept me busy, with bottles and diapers and spit-up, when I really yearned to write words people could relate to, laught at, be inspired by, find peace in, find hope and comfort in. I knew it was time to start writing. But what would I say? Will anyone want to read my words? Will I expose my soul and get nothing in response? Where do I even begin?
And I felt a whisper somewhere deep inside my soul, “Just start with something…”
Here I am. It’s an extremely humbling and vulnerable place to be. I feel exposed, because I know how raw and honest and risky it is to be truthful, especially in today’s context. And I’m not trying to fill anyone’s shoes or become famous or form some strange cult (and land a Netflix series). RHE’s life and death inspired me to stop waiting around for some magical moment in my life. No one’s going to come seeking me out. No one even know’s all the words, thoughts, ideas, creativity that is trapped inside me but I am overwhelmed with words to share. I’m still trying to figure out how to say them, in what order, and how to even get folks reading. Maybe I should listen to that whisper from my soul I’ve been talking over for 15 years… just start with something.
I’m starting with this. And you don’t have to wait for any special moment either… start whatever it is you’ve been dreaming about right now, today. It wasn’t my job or my babies or my busy schedule or my education or my finances holding me back. It was fear. Gut wrenching, debilitating fear. Fear that I’d put myself all out there, in front of “God and everybody,” and I’d fail.
It’s like we are all programmed failure at something, anything is the worst possible outcome one can have. And although we’ve come up with lots of inspiring quotes to post on our Instagram pages about how failure teaches us things and it takes failure to succeed, no one really wants to fail. Very few people admit to failure. We go to great lengths to cover our failures by reversing the narative to fit a “winners story.”
In my case, I’m beginning to understand I’ve really failed if I don’t even try. If I know I have something of value to offer others, but don’t allow myself to be brave, vulnerable, humble, and resilient enough to share it… to do that thing I am sure God created me to do, WHAT AM I DOING? What am I doing? That’s why I don’t feel successful. It’s why everything I’m trying to do feels unfulfilling, inauthentic, and like a failure.
There is a passion, a truth, a Divine whisper within each of us. It’s real deep, so youngin’s hold on tight… it takes a decade or two (some grey hair, maybe a couple of snotty kids, a failed career or four, a loss, and the purchase of your first large household appliance) to reach that far down into your soul to find it. But when you do… it is undeniable and outrageous and terrifying and yours to claim.
I hope I have at least a few readers here to help hold me to it. I’m claiming it. It’s time for me to just start with something. I know you feel it too- and I want to hear about it. What have you always wanted to do with your life/career/relationships, but just haven’t worked up the courage to do it yet?