Smack dab in the middle of lesson 4 of an online course called The Wisdom of Story with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton, I lost my EVER LOVING COOL. Glennon’s talking about her online community, Together Rising, and how they banded together to raise funds for different causes that break their hearts. Most recently raising an ungodly amount of money with 40,000 contributors donating an average of $29 each.
Suddenly, I wasn’t sitting on my couch with my computer on my lap. It was seventeen years ago, I sat in the passenger seat of my old Mazda 626, Tim in the driver’s seat, Jake just a year old in the back, flying down Hwy 65 just south of Lincoln, CA. My chest felt ready to explode, my mind whirling with possibilities, my heart racing faster than the tires on pavement. I looked Tim dead in the eyes and confessed the only thing I knew to be true, “I was created to change the world.”
I meant it with every atom of my being.
I meant it when I wrote grants for group homes. And failed.
I meant it when I wrote a charter for a charter school. And failed.
I meant it when I started a nonprofit to support orphanages in Kenya. And failed.
I meant it when I created Restored Healing Ministries. And failed.
And then I realized I wasn’t meant to change the world.
I didn’t know I believed this toxic little tidbit until Glennon talked about raising all those funds for refugees. I should have had a clue when the first thought popped up, “Not me.” I didn’t think much of it when, “I can’t,” tempered my longing. I nodded even as the knot in my stomach grew. But when I heard,”I’m nobody,” I paused Lesson 4.
I turned towards the inner dialogue and actively listened.
It piped up with, “I won’t make a difference even if I try.”
The depth at which I believed this statement stunned me. Hours later I still ache with it. So much pain. So much failure. So much rejection. How do I begin to unravel this deep seeded belief? How do I reconcile it with my foundational belief that if every single one of us did what we were created to do, the world would become gloriously beautiful and all calamity would end.
The two beliefs are irreconcilable.
What do I do now?
I hit play on Lesson 4 again.
Glennon said the way we know our path, our cause, is to follow our heartbreak. “Instead of turning away from our heartbreak, turn towards it. It’s your teacher and will show you the way.”
Can we pause for a moment and let that sink in?
. . .
. . .
. . .
Heartbreak is our teacher. Not only for growth on this brutal, beautiful journey, but for finding what we were created to do. Heartbreak serves as our guide to discover our life’s purpose.
It’s so simple.
It’s so hard.
Hard because I still believe I won’t make a difference even if I try.
The lesson ended with three questions:
- What breaks your heart?
- What is an existing community struggle or global story that you want to influence and write yourself into?
- How do you write yourself into the story?
I stared at those questions for too long, terrified. If I entered in, if I was truthful, I would have answers. I would no longer be able to ignore that long repressed desperation to make a difference in the world.
Answering these questions would take my biggest act of bravery yet. I would have to take back that part of myself I locked in a dank dungeon for all eternity. That part of me who believes I can make a difference. That part of me who cares deeply about social injustice. That part of me heartbroken over the lies that bind my fellow humans beings in prisons of their own making, imaginary prisons chaining them to their own false belief that they can’t do the very thing they were born to do.
All I had to do to find my heartbreak was hold a mirror up to my face.
I’m broken-hearted over me, how I’ve held myself in check with fear. I’m equally broken-hearted that people walk around not knowing or totally ignoring who they are meant to be. And the more brave I am, the more I see how deep the chains go in all of us.
The good news? Heartbreak had already started to lead me out of prison months ago. I’m already living it through my year of bravery, my blog, it’s even entrenched in the themes of my novel. I could spend my whole life being brave if it would empower others to take back their courage and fully live, if it would activate others to run hard after their dreams no matter the barriers they face. This is the story I want to write myself into.
The how is what paralyzes me.
I suspect, the how asks me to be even braver. The how forces me to dig deeper inward, while simultaneously looking further outward. Like Shrek peeling layers off his onion, once I’ve overcome places of fear and discomfort a deeper one creeps out to say “hello.” While at the same time, the braver I become, the more I must put myself out in the world and risk. Fortunately, it seems this type of bravery comes one step at a time, one opportunity at a time. I just have to decide ahead of time whether I’m willing to risk the dream of changing the world again.