Art and LiteratureTheology & Spirituality

Speaking Scary

 Don’t let the sun set till you’ve done one thing that sort of scares you.1

—Ann Voskamp

Clear Colorado skies are a rich cyan blue, beckoning me to jump into an adventure. Sometimes I receive the call of all that glorious wild and go for a long drive in the mountains, looking for a pull-off where I can tromp. I like adventures, after all. Some days, though, I stay home and watch the cotton-clouds sail over my roof on the breeze, content to look out the window as I write. Whether it is pen to page or keys clicking their rhythm, I can soar to those azure heavens or plumb the depths of pain with words. Some words are hard to wrestle onto the page, but others are outright scary to pen down. What will people think if I write that? Words don’t seem to care what others think, they demand entrance into the worlds—of story, of prose, of conversation. They teem with life-giving substance, building worlds, building others up, furnishing frameworks for ideas and dreams. In order to craft a believable story one needs the right words—the sort that steal us away from the concrete planet our feet rest on and fly us into a place so rich and vibrant that it becomes more real to us than the trees swaying overhead.

Words can draw us in to something bigger than ourselves, be it uncharted lands or the love of God through his very own Book. Yet words can be scary, too. They can paint nightmarish images, twist into hideous lies, or wound our hearts. However, it is God who gives us the scariest words. They are the sort that breathe life: I was wrong. I forgive you. Can we try again? Help me! God, I trust You. Yes. I love you. These words are hard to say because the monster of pride or the fear of the unknown chokes us. What if we trust God and horrific things still happen to us? What if we speak out our love and it is taken advantage of or rejected? What will people think of us if we admit that we were wrong? What if we tell someone our hurts or struggles, will they run away? If we tell someone we forgive them, doesn’t that mean we have to live like we have forgiven them? These words are hard, the implications are far-reaching, and they can scare us.

Yet maybe our world would be richer, the earth beneath our feet more dear, the sky above fully alive, if we spoke these words more often. Maybe our love would grow if only we dared to share it, in word and in action. Perhaps we would free others from the tyranny of stagnation if we forgave them and were able to see that they could be much more than we ever thought. If we speak and act on these frightening words, our view of God would likely deepen, allowing him to be God and reminding us that we are frail. We might find ourselves in deep waters, in broken places, being honest about our hurts. Still more, though, we might find that the Word himself speaks to us in these places, breathing his very life into dead places, healing hurts and hearts.

What is one scary word or phrase you need to say before the sun sets? Is it I was wrong or I trust you, or I love you or I believe, please help my unbelief? Sometimes the scariest thing I do in a day is tell God that I trust him and that I’m saying yes to what he asks of me. He asks hard things sometimes. Often. And they usually include other people—not always the kind I like to be around or who are easy to love. Sometimes he asks me to be still—both to be silent and not to be restless. I strive a lot with God and with others—for God to ask me to stop striving is difficult. To say yes to Him is hard—it is scary. But it is always good. Will you join me in saying scary things to God and to others?

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Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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