There is a single prayer I pray every day, often many times a day, and lately with every breath. “God, help me be brave.”
This is still relatively new to me. I didn’t grow up praying. I didn’t grow up in a church. So when I decided I needed to start having a dialogue with God, I did what a lot of people do: I asked for stuff.
“Please let me find happiness.”
“Please let me fit into that dress next weekend.”
“Please smite that chick in the eyeball who stole my boyfriend.”
“Please let this marriage last.”
”Please keep my babies safe. Healthy. In my sights.”
There’s a problem with that, though, and it’s not that all that asking is greedy. I truly believe the universe is a plentiful and loving place. I believe that it wants us to be happy. I believe that it wants us to have what we need and even what we desire, that it wants to rise up to meet us where we are. With the possible exception of wishing that people be smited in the eyeball (even if they deserve it), I think we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for things or hope for things or truly believe in our hearts that we are good and worthy of receiving things.
The problem is that all that asking I was doing was giving me the illusion of control, and control is where it gets tricky. I’m addicted to control the way some people are addicted to booze or sugar or gambling. I crave it. For God’s sakes, I follow around behind my family and reload the dishwasher when they aren’t looking like I’m the only one who can do it right. Like I am the queen of dishwasher-loading, like this is a thing that little girls everywhere are aspiring to right now, like it even matters. Much like anything we are addicted to, control makes me feel powerful and that I have a purpose when at the same time it is slowly destroying my life.
Really, I don’t have control of anything.
It’s a hard time to be a control freak. All we have to do is look at the news or outside at the weather to be reminded of that. The world feels increasingly hard to live in with every passing day and everywhere I look I see people throwing up their hands and asking “Why? What did we do to deserve this?” I’ve been asking it too, whispering it in the dark corners and waiting, waiting, for the answer.
Maybe the answer is nothing.
Maybe the world is just hard, maybe being alive in it takes great faith and great courage. Maybe it takes a slow un-gripping of the wheel, finger by white-knuckled finger, because we were never the ones driving anyway and the truth is the dishes are going to get clean even if they are stacked all wrong.
Of the two – great faith and great courage – I suppose faith has come easier to me these days. Spending time around children does that to you, I think. But courage? No way. I’m not a brave person. I’m the one who watches everyone else jump in the pool from my corner where I have to ease myself in so painfully slow, one inch of stark white goose-bumped flesh at a time, holding my breath for so long that dizziness starts to crowd into the corners of my vision. I don’t drive above the speed limit and I don’t watch scary movies because they make me feel like I am dying (lately that is exactly how I’ve been feeling when I watch the news too).
Also, my depression is back and it has brought its faithful partner along with it, anxiety, and every single bone in my body is calling out for me to hide, seek shelter, and cower.
But I cannot, and that’s where God comes in, at least for me, at least for right now. I am not inherently brave, but maybe I don’t have to be. Maybe all I have to do is ask for the courage to keep going. Maybe getting out of bed and facing the day is an act of tremendous courage sometimes. Maybe that’s how the revolution starts.
I still want happiness. I still want us all to be healthy and safe. And yes, I want revolution too, and healing, and progress. I want to march and sing in the streets and not be afraid every morning when I let my babies out the front door and into the world. None of that is going to be found in my hiding spot. I know. I’ve looked.
So all I want, all I will let myself ask for right now, is to be brave.
God, help us be brave. Brave enough to keep going. Brave enough to live our lives in a broken world. Brave enough, even, to fix it.
This post originally appeared on the author’s website, Liz Petrone.com.