I read this incredible book called Expecting Adam: A Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic the week after Lucy was born. It is Martha Beck's memoir about the way she and her husband, both with two degrees from Harvard, had their lives turned upside down when she became pregnant with a baby who had Down Syndrome. It's the kind of book you want everyone you know to read, the kind of book that leaves you feeling forever changed. Here is an excerpt, minus a few letters here and there. Pure brilliance, I say. (If you don't want to just take my word for it, Anne Lamott is quoted on the front cover as saying, "It shimmers.")
If you read the excerpt, you'll know that Martha's son, Adam, sends her this message: "you'll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed." This is the kind of bravery I have been pondering lately. It's shocking to read about someone with Martha's background being so transparent about deeply personal and spiritual experiences, knowing what it must do to her reputation in some circles.
Then I pick up Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, and I think about how Phil (there he is again) says he finds Anne Lamott fans (some closet fans) in every part of the church. She writes with shocking transparency, saying things I wouldn't dream of admitting in whispers to my best friend. I am at once apalled and comforted, thinking, I've thought that very same thing myself.
These two women, in their courage, have stepped out into Nouwen's truth I shared earlier, that what is most personal is most universal. They lay it all on the line, and it works like a sledgehammer on the fragile fear that I'm the only one.
I haven't been saying the personal things, here or in my life. I've justified it by telling myself that my audience can't handle it, isn't ready for it, that it will put unnecessary strain on my relationships. But I just can't shake this feeling that I'm wrong. That if I trusted it, I would find that those things I think would be unacceptable really are universal at their core. That if I were brave, maybe intimacy would abound, maybe others would find comfort in their journeys. I don't know yet what it all means or how to proceed from here. But for now, those are my further thoughts on bravery.
I'll close with this lyric from Karen Peris:
God He gave me a brave heart,
But God, He gave me a chicken head