A few months ago, I ordered a new Giving Key.
For those of you who’ve never heard of this organization, the The Giving Keys takes old keys, anywhere from department stores to house keys, and engraves words on them.
Gives them a new identity.
And then those keys are shipped to people all over the world with a simple mission: at some point, you give your key away. Ultimately it’s up to you if you give it away or not, but the key’s really supposed to signify not only the word you decide to put on it, but the story you have.
The new identity you’re being given.
And you’re not created to keep this to yourself.
Your story is meant to be given away.
Last January, I bought my first key from the 2015 Passion Conference. It said “End It” on it, for the EndIt Movement (shining a light on the 27 million enslaved in our world). I wrote a blog post about how I gave my first key away, so I’ll give you the short story: for eight months I wore my key and overtime started losing faith in ever giving it away. It’d lost its meaning. Truthfully felt like I’d lost my meaning.
The irony of it all, now that I’m in hindsight, is I never had a story to tell in January. It took eight months for my story to develop, for me to walk through the woods, stand in the storm. Eight months of the key losing its significance. Eight months of wearing it like jewelry instead of a story of purpose.
Storms make us relatable.
And then one day.
She was sitting across from me and I had tears in my eyes as I grabbed my key and placed it in her hands, and I whispered, “This is my story. This is what I’ve been through this year, and I know life sucks for you right now too. But here’s the hope I’ve discovered through it all.”
Now we’re a year later, and it’s January 6, 2016.
Passion 2016 has come and gone, and it was a long, exhausting, enriching, empowering weekend. This year, I was already wearing my new story around my neck as I walked in, and several people asked me either what my key meant or why I’d chosen the word I had.
I got to tell them about the significance of my new key, but also about my friend, my first key, about the night we sat across from each other, in the moments I believed I’d never find someone to give it to but here she was and now she has a story too.
But then something crazy happened. Two nights ago was the last day of the conference, and had it been 2015, it would’ve been the same day I bought my first key last year.
The thing is I saw my friend that night.
She and I were sitting in my room, rambling about our workout plans and boys and church and life. I told her about the conference, and then a wave of emotion slapped me in the face as I realized:
One year ago, I bought my End It key. I had no idea who the person would be to receive my key – I’d met so many people I could’ve given it to.
But now my key had a face, and she was right in front of me, and it was an entire year later and I saw my life come full circle and how every single thing that happened in 2015, from the depression to the brokenness to the drama and confusion, had brought me to this point and how inexplicably happy I felt in that moment.
/ / /
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for six days now, and I keep deleting what I’m writing. I don’t know if it’s because I feel insecure in what I’m writing or feeling too vulnerable. My point is my blogs don’t always flow, and I don’t always feel like it’s my best work. I need to learn to not always have a death grip on what I’m writing or saying or how I’m interacting around people because by not having the need to control, I have a greater chance at being authentic in my interactions.
So here’s what I’d written yesterday, on the brink of deleting it all, but deciding to take a leap of faith without worrying:
We need to screw New Years resolutions, because here we are, writing out our revelations and naming and claiming our years when we don’t already realize we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Let’s get something straight.
If you ever set a New Years resolution, if you ever decide to name your year or claim it as “your year”, you’re going to fail.
2015 was named grace and authenticity, but realize I had to actually fail, and feel broken, and hurt others, in order to receive grace I didn’t deserve.
Realize authenticity means completely losing who you are to a person or an idea or a label, and losing yourself over and over and over again until one day you’re sitting in a pile of cards that used to be a house and God’s off somewhere else building a new foundation not out of the rubble of who you once were, but brick and stone. And this time, on a foundation of humility and thankfulness.
I think that’s something I’ve always missed when it came to naming my year, like I did last year. We don’t realize when we come out of the woods and hope for something new, when we have a new vision in our sights and reach for a brave new world, there’s going to be another woods.
There will always be another storm.
Taking the most typical resolutions, we think we’re going to do better this year eating healthy or working out, but where we go wrong is in the moments we fail and we don’t get back up. You’re going to miss a workout day (raises hand, me today). You’re going to drink a milkshake (don’t overthink). But you keep going. You keep fighting.
When did the millennial generation stop fighting and lose passion and drive for things? Why are we, I, feel entitled to an easy life when in reality it’s only going to get harder?
It’s the same with naming your year.
You name your year worthy, but you’re going to feel unworthy for parts of the year, not because you aren’t learning to value yourself and see beauty and hope within you, but because you’re going to be attacked on all sides, and you’re going to be more aware of your perceived unworthiness, and you’re going to have to keep fighting.
You name your year change, and you have massive dreams for your future, and they are valid and they are good and true, but you must understand that to get where your vision is leading you, change means change, hello. Don’t sign up for something you’re not ready to take on. And really I don’t think we’ll ever fully be ready, but read the contract. Know failure is involved, one of the biggest factors, and don’t be afraid of failure. We pin so much of our self-worth on failing at the relationship and not finding the right one, or having to change jobs, fill in the blank. And it’s not a matter of degrading those things – yes, they’re stressful, yes they matter.
Your hardship matters.
But don’t walk into this thinking you’re going to be perfect. Don’t step into wanting to see a transformation in your life without being willing to be changed by accepting the failure and keeping going.
In the generation of microwaves and smart phones, we have lost out capability to value the slow, painful process of being stripped away and something new being revealed.
For some reason we don’t see the value in failure. It’s honestly what gives us the story in the first place. We fail, and at some point, we learn to rise again.
All stories begin with the character who’s living one way, something happens, and by the end, they’ve changed in another way.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found.”
“I once thought this way, but now I believe this.”
That’s what your story looks like.
The story came not because of the character, but because of what happened to the character and how the character reacted and where they were when the story finished.
Stories revolve around the characters and their experiences, which means our lives are compilations of stories that intertwine at different times and have varying degrees of emotion as we learn to navigate this slightly messy, slightly wonderful life.
Our greatest tragedy is if (and when) we start living in that failure. Something Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church and incredible leader of the Passion movement, talked about at Passion 2016 was how we live out of a mindset of victimhood (writing about this topic more in the future months).
We walk in our brokenness, let it define us and degrade us and diminish God’s glory in our lives – we’re convinced we can do this on our own and that our brokenness is necessary and never going away and we’ll never be free from it.
And so we wear our brokenness around our necks and claim failure as our story.
So for instance, one of the areas I feel like I’ve failed most is how I’m essentially ashamed to talk about God in my writing. I’ve stayed silent about Jesus most of the time because there were and are some times I’m still uncertain about things, times I’m still trying to process this thing called walking with Jesus and living for Him, times I’m trying to detox from the church and religion and legalism.
But if I’m really honest, I’m afraid of what people will think, and yet the reason why I’ve made it out of the woods, the reason why I feel more freedom today than I did almost five months ago when I started my blog, is because of God.
It takes time. It’s taking time for me to open up again, to be unafraid to write what I want and completely forget who’s reading and worrying what they’ll think.
You know it’s a victory, no matter how tiny, when you no longer want let alone need that person’s approval anymore. You realize you don’t have to seek out validation in someone else, and it’s like the thing you’ve wanted to conqueror for so long suddenly no longer matters.
A random thought, but don’t be discouraged if your year hasn’t started out the way you hoped it would. As cliche as it sounds, the beginning isn’t what matters; it’s how you finish and the moment when you’re standing in hindsight and you realize how your life has come full circle. It’s when you get to the end of the story and see how A, B, Q, and X have tied together and made you who you are.
“Who cares if we’re not perfect as long as we’re what people need. Maybe our weakness is the story God wants us to tell people…. Life is about doing for one person at a time what you wish you could do for all…. We’re given platforms so we can see others, not so we can be worshiped… Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you can’t see the person standing next to you…”
Who cares if we don’t have this together, so long as we’re going at “this” with fearlessness and vulnerability.
Your crew doesn’t need more fake smiles and surface level conversations. They just need you to be real, because they’re hurting too. They need you.
I was texting one of my friends a few weeks ago and she wrote this to me:
“You’re teaching others how to be brave just by being brave yourself. You keep bringing the truth into the world like nobody’s business, and it opens up the doors for other people to tell their truth too.”
That’s what happens when you step out of your comfort zone and sing your story to the world, not a story of brokenness but a story of how you’ve been brought out of the woods, or are being brought out of the woods. The minute you speak, someone else is watching you and feels empowered to speak too.
You have a voice – use it.
You have a story – share it.
We were never created to keep what we’ve learned to ourselves. Pass it on to the next generation, to the next breaking spirit.
Because being afraid of someone’s brokenness isn’t going to save our hurting generation. We too often stand at a distance as someone’s world collapses because we’re afraid of the messiness and don’t want to get our hands dirty.
And don’t get me wrong, there’s times it’s healthier to step back and let the world collapse – sometimes that’s the only thing that will grab that person’s attention.
But someone at some point in your life, when you were most depressed or lonely or uncertain, stepped in and got messy for you.
So I think if there’s anything I could speak into 2016, because there’s a lot I could say, it would be to not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.
Words Jesus used constantly as He started working miracles and appearing to His disciples. He knew our fragile hearts. He knew how easy it was to run from our callings and our visions. He knew we would come to Him with fragmented trust.
But how beautiful that moment is when you discover your story and speak it for the first time. It’s addicting, sharing your story. You begin seeing how God has worked everything together, and maybe not everything makes sense, but you see lights scattered at various ends of tunnels in your past and present.
Wear your brave on your skin, wear it around your neck.
Keep it at the front of your mind to remind you to keep going.
Do not be afraid.
/ / /
You are the brave ones because you carry on.
You are strong because you’re not afraid to admit your weaknesses.
You are beautiful because you let the world see the most honest version of you.
// the giving keys.
2016 was born on January 1 at midnight, as its first appearance was applauded by millions around the world.
And her song will be a brave anthem, as we learn to be vulnerable, as we share our stories, as we wear our braves and fearlessly shout that there’s more to this life than a life of victimhood.
And her name will be Brave.