My thirteen year old is afraid of heights. In tall places she gets shaky and starts to panic. This is her. As I watched her complete the high ropes course I was struck by bravery. It never exists without fear. While we all want to be brave, and none of us want to be fearful we must first have fear in order to step out in courage. Without fear the courage doesn’t exist.
So much of our life is like this picture right now, fear and courage all mixed up into one. Happiness and sadness living side by side, grief and joy holding hands. Rarely do emotions exist in clean isolation, usually the blooming of good things is born from the roots of hard moments.
This week is big for our family. For the first time our two oldest girls will be going to school away from home. While they are both in middle school this venture feels to me like I imagine it would feel for a parent sending their child to kindergarten or first grade for the first time…just delayed for us by eight years. I am not quite convinced that those eight years have made this transition any easier. You see we have all grown accustomed to this good thing of learning and growing and doing life together. For the past thirteen years I have been the primary teacher and shepherdess of my children’s hearts. I have (mostly) relished our times together…teaching them to read, learning mathematics, language study. Bible studies around our various kitchen tables in the morning, memorizing multiplication facts through songs as we wash dishes, baking classes together. Our memories have been built in the days that have strung together into years and now I am sending two of my girls away from our daytime memories into a place where their primary teachers will not be me, where their friendships will blossom away from the four walls of our home and where their exploration and laughter will grace different walls then mine.
I am sad. I am happy for my girls to be in place to be challenged by new teachers, to be daily engaging with a multitude of kids from many nations, for the opportunity to choose friends to engage with and how to be kind with others who are difficult to get along with. I’m excited to help them consider boundaries in friendships, and recognize how to manage time and commitments and opportunities. I’m thrilled they are following God into a place where they will be challenged in their faith, and engaged with others their own age. But I am also so very sad. I am sad that their laughter will no longer fill our home during daylight hours, I’m sad for their siblings who will no longer benefit from their help with school, creative play or imaginative creations. I am mourning the loss of their presence at weekly prayer gatherings, or helping me create a home for hosting on a moments notice. And so the joys of beginning school ride upon the back of grief.
And my girls? They are scared, so much unknown in new teachers, and classrooms, routines and schedules, the normal social anxt of who friends will become or how they will fit into social circles, but the are also experiencing courage, it rides on the back of the fear, but they are leaning into who they are apart from others, developing new systems of organization and processing fears out loud and praying for courage and bravely stepping foot onto their new campus tomorrow.
They are not strangers to new places, my brave middle schoolers last summer entered a myriad of youth groups as “new” and knowing no one and delved in as we traveled across the US. They have bravely stepped into Sunday school where they are the only Americans, gone to preschool in a language foreign to them, gone to a camp knowing no other campers and made friends without a shared common language. They are brave, strong courageous children, who are real enough to be frightened of a new beginning and change. Does their fear make weak? On the contrary it makes them brave, courageous and strong.
This afternoon we sat in the backyard with our bibles and pens open. At their request we were drinking smoothies in fancy glasses with fun straws. The girls and I are doing an inductive study of John. As we studied and laughed and underlined and prayed we prayed thanksgiving together over the fears that await in the school hallways tomorrow, trusting that the courage will rise up to meet them. That bravely stepping into God’s calling will result in deeper courage, faith and trust. As we prayed together over their hallways and school experience I found myself praying the same over my house.Oh how they will be missed.
So are we excited for the girls to go to school here? Yes! But it rides on the back of grief, as their courage rides on the back of fear and these opposing emotions entrusted in God’s hand can result in deeper Faith for His glory.
Did my daughter afraid of heights regret doing the high ropes. Never. But her experience rode upon the back of fear, and fear in God’s hands can be transformed into courage, trust and faith. Lord let it be.