The message came in while I was sitting with the baby at 10:42 p.m., rocking quietly in the nursery. In the stillness of the night, my husband and two oldest children dozed peacefully while I savored the rare quiet. As I idly scrolled social media and checked emails, a notification from a friend popped up:
Please pray. We heard gunshots in the village. Some are going to respond.
Half a world away, a dear friend had sent the urgent message to a group of us who were praying along with her as she journeyed to help others in a dangerous area of the world. Reading her brief message, my heart started pounding and I began what felt like an endless litany of unceasing prayer, even as I checked my phone compulsively for updates.
As I kept my silent vigil, my eyes strayed around the baby’s room. A warm bed, soft blankets, comfort and safety.
In that moment, all the things I took for granted took on a new significance. Because although I knew the reasons my friend was called to serve others, and wholeheartedly approved of the passion and conviction that had led her to that place — selfishly, I wanted her safety more. I wanted her to be there, with me, in the comfort of my home.
And instead of the faceless people I feel compassion for in a removed sense, I could picture my friend. We were pregnant at the same time, have children the same age, have taken vacations together. I have her recipe for zuppa toscana. We’ve shed tears together, laughed over coffee.
I know her. And because I do, suddenly I don’t feel quite so brave.
You see, it’s easy to talk about compassion and kindness and how we can make changes in the world. It feels good to send school supplies and clothes, money and prayers. It’s convenient to click a button to make an online donation, or stop midway through my errands to drop something off.
But in the midst of life-threatening concerns, my good intentions felt hollow. How much I take this life, this comfort, this safety for granted. The reality is: Being brave is scary.
If I’m honest, I’m not always brave. I make my husband attend parent-teacher conferences because I’m afraid I’ll get emotional in talking through my child’s triumphs and challenges. The thought of public speaking makes me want to vomit. I like to dream up our Advent Acts but really hope my husband will help me follow through on them. I don’t like calling strangers — ever.
I’m working on overcoming my fears. This quote from Glennon Melton on the link between fear and bravery says it so well:
“Kind people are brave people. Brave is not something you should wait to feel. Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.”
I once heard a speaker talk about how her parents had adopted several children, despite the challenges they faced in doing so. When she asked her dad why, he simply paused and told her: “I have a hard time saying no to a need I know I can fill.”
You see, mercy ends when our compassion is marked by inaction, when our comfort weighs more heavily in the balance than our care for others.
Maybe that’s you, waiting on the sidelines. It’s me sometimes, too. Can you and I start by resolving to say yes more? Yes, I can fill that need. Yes, I will help you with that event. Yes, I will take that next step. Yes, I will move beyond the safety and familiarity of my comfort zone. Yes, yes, yes.