Clarity and Courage
“But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are.” -Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is hands down one of my favorite authors. And if I’m forced to pick my top three favorite books of all time, Traveling Mercies always makes the list. I love Anne’s honesty about her life and her struggles. She hit the hardest of rock bottoms and doesn’t sugarcoat the recovery. There was no ah-ha! moment or big revelation. There was just a human who made a choice to do better and credits her faith for giving her the strength to try again every single day.
I am drawn to this author’s belief that faith isn’t about easy answers. She never claims to know the right way forward but rather relies on simple prayers to understand the next right step. Lamott claims the two best prayers she knows are: “Help me” and “Thank you.” She has a friend whose morning prayer each day is “Whatever” and whose evening prayer is “Oh, well.” So simple. So powerful. So true.
My relationship with faith and religion has changed over the years. I know what I was taught growing up, and I know what I stand for today. And the thing is, they don’t always match up. I guess I’ve come to realize that there are universal teachings in all religions; they are just clouded in the differing details.
I believe in loving everyone. I think everyone is equal and that every single human deserves love and acceptance, no matter what. And I know that sounds nice and happy and great, but I don’t make that statement lightly. The word love gets tossed around lightly but holds great meaning. Beneath all the emojis and the casual “love ya!” phone call sign-offs, what does it really mean? And does my religion strengthen that foundation or create cracks upon which I stand?
Every summer, we try to take a family trip to Hawaii. It is our happy place and is a week we look forward to all year long. We go to the same hotel and easily fall into the same groove. But last year, I added one unexpected ritual to my pre-established Hawaii routine…
Last year, I noticed myself being drawn to a large statue of Buddha that sat atop a tall, majestic staircase. Brightly colored flowers had been placed in his lap, and, I assume, prayers had been offered up to this large, peaceful-looking statue. So, I did the same. I found a nearby flower and placed it gently in Buddha’s lap. Unsure of what to say to this unfamiliar religious figure, I took a page out of Anne Lamott’s book and quickly offered up a two-word prayer of my own, “clarity and courage.” And then, I walked away.
The next morning, I found myself back at Buddha. I repeated my ritual of placing the flower and sending up my now familiar two-word prayer, “clarity and courage.” And then I did it again the next morning. And the next. And the next, until I had to say good-bye to my new friend Buddha until the following year.
I think about buddha often. And I think about the two-word prayer I adopted as our own. I wonder how and why those two words came to me so easily and so quickly and am unsure why I still use them today when I am talking to my God. Because here at home, even though I am not standing in front of a Buddha statue, I still find that prayer guides me, refocuses me, and centers me. Because through extensive trial and error, what I’ve now realized is that my religion and my God and my Buddha statue and my truth all exist together, as one, inside of me. I call it my God Voice. Others may refer to it as instinct or intuition or a life compass. Whatever label we choose, its purpose remains the same for each and every one of us.
As with all hard truths, our God Voices don’t come without their challenges. Mine is to sit in stillness long enough to be able to listen. When I do stay in the scary silence and when I am able to truly listen, I always have my clarity. And that answer is rarely anything more than the direction in which to take my next right step. Sometimes, that one step can be enough. Always, that one step and all the steps that follow, require courage.
Clarity and courage: clarity to know what to do and the courage to do it. Help me and thank you: help me as I am admitting defeat, and thank you for the help that is on the way. Whatever and oh well: whatever may be will be and oh well, what happened, happened.
One truth about my God I know to be true: He doesn’t need a fancy prayer or a solemn hymn; He just needs me to show up. One truth I know about myself: I believe in hope, I believe in non-judgment, and I believe in love. And I know that showing up messy is better than not showing up at all.
How do I know this, you may ask? Is this something I tell myself to rationalize my choices or make myself feel better about my life? Well, I’ve asked myself that same thing many, many, many times. That same question has pushed me far away from my God, and it has also brought me right back to Him time and time again. And yet, I always end up in the same spot- my God voice. And, when I get very quiet and listen with an open heart, I always, always, get my clarity.
Now I’m finding the courage to go live it.
Won’t you join me?
In love and hope,