I must have watched the movie “Braveheart” at least a dozen times over the last 15 years. There is a particular line in the movie when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, tells the beautiful princess with great certainty--moments before he is about to succumb to a horrible torturous and painful death--that “Every man dies, but not every man really lives.” So I had to ask, what does it mean to truly live? When do we stop living as mere mortals, getting through each day, avoiding the scary, painful things in life, and begin living a life God intended us to live, a life that has purpose beyond ourselves, a life that is brave? I’ve recently learned (at the ripe age of 40) that it is not what we’ve lived through or the sum of our life experiences that defines us, but how we respond to what we’ve lived through. It’s about endurance and staying power. How strong are you in the midst of great heartbreak? Have you noticed there are two kinds of people? Those that persevere and find a way to have courage through calamity, and those who let the tragedies outweigh the blessings in life which stops them in their tracks? Our inadequacies often keep us from living to our fullest potential. And in the moments God calls us to be brave, we wane. As a little girl, I remember hiding in my bedroom and creating a world where no one could hurt me. No one could tell me I was ugly or stupid. I could play my radio really loud and act as though my Barbie dolls were the cool girls at school who actually liked me, not the malicious kids who taunted me on the playground. Many days were spent running straight home after school just to avoid a beating from the neighborhood bully. Needless to say, life was pretty good in my room. Safe and sound, the perfect escape from all reality--and more importantly, the daggers that wounded my heart. The “safe places” in our lives seem to be the places we feel we can control. There are no surprises lurking around the corner. We know exactly what to expect. This false peace and comfort we think we have is really a cage of avoidance that we build around ourselves, usually without our awareness. We avoid those places that have hurt us so deeply by building a cage, bar by bar, around us in order to stop the daggers and arrows from penetrating. We begin filling our days with late hours at work, impulsive shopping, impulsive eating, drugs, alcohol… anything to hide from the shame and hurt we so somberly feel. The sad truth is we will go for years avoiding the hurt and shame from the past. We will harden our hearts, and prevent others from getting too close. Ultimately, we live a life God never intended us to live. God calls us to be more. He calls us to face the fear and fight through all the humiliation, shame, regret, and guilt that have weighed us down like a ball and chain, hindering us from living a free and brave life in Christ. He calls us to endure. We can never outrun hardships and suffering, but with God’s help we can endure whatever problems we face. The believer’s life is not about being physically or mentally strong. It’s about learning to trust God even when we face obstacles. 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, “Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God” (AMP). As a victim of child abuse and bullying, I developed a poor self-image. I learned to believe the lies I was told as a young, impressionable girl. Consequently, I have struggled throughout my life with self-confidence and self-doubt. The damage was devastating because it defined me. After listening to the destructive voices, I became a person with no value. I looked away when someone noticed me, never participated in anything, and soon became a person who lived life from the sideline. One day, like all great and epic stories, a hero entered my story to rescue me. Jesus overcame my darkness and said, “You are My beloved child, and I will rescue you from the shadows and give you a new life that tells you who you really are: a blessed child, forgiven, and loved. So loved, that I died for you.” Jesus taught me how to be brave and He wants to do the same for you. But how do you trust Jesus when you have avoided your hurt for so long? First, you must choose to exercise your hearing of the Holy Spirit through focused prayer and the study of God’s Word. You gain the confidence when you begin to release your burdens to the Father. Reach for His hand and trust Him to equip you to be brave and courageous. Second, allow God to demonstrate what great and powerful things He can do. Even though YOU allow your perception to define you, God sees you in a totally different way. Each of us is His workmanship and created for a purpose. The more you trust your heavenly Father with your heart, the braver you become. 2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (NASB). What about you? Whom in your life have you allowed to define you? Who said you are worthless and unlovable? Who has stopped you from being brave? The voices may be deep in your subconscious, but they are not from God. They are from the adversary, and he wants to take you down and allow you to continue to believe the lies. In the movie “Braveheart,” William Wallace could have had a quick, less painful death simply by kissing the cloche of a bishop and declaring allegiance to an evil king, but he refused. Satan is no different than this king. He wants us to give in. He tells us that things will be easier if we just avoid the pain. He wants us to stay in the cage. He is the voice in your head that says you are “despicable and worthless.” Say, "No!" to Satan’s lies and, "Yes!" to God's truth. Once you know the truth, you are free to go out and be brave!