Last week I was talking to a dear friend of mine who lives in California. She was on her way to a silent retreat for the weekend and so obviously called so we could talk and talk before it was forbidden (we like to live on the edge like that.) We talked about all the ways that life is curved and splitting, how most of it looks very different than what we’d expected when we set out all confident and certain in our freshly graduated days. We spoke of tender things. The things that ache, the desires left unmet. The splinters dug down deep, impossible to scratch away. In our own unique ways, we both had desires to grow our families that weren’t going as expected. The map we thought we had a hold of turned out to be just a handful of paper thin lines and empty promises.

Something happens to us at our core, I believe, when our expectations fall far from reality. The things we’d learned to fall back on before suddenly just don’t cut it. It’s like we’re out in the middle of nowhere, like we’ve been following a path carved out before us and holding onto a map we’ve never really needed to use. Walk forward, straight and narrow, don’t look back, don’t move off the trail. But then, it happens. We get to the part where the trail has been washed out. It’s now that we try desperately to look to the map to show us what to do. But the map isn’t right, not anymore. Because the way forward has changed. What is needed for the next right step is something new. Something brave.

My daughter Mercy has a beautiful children’s book that talks about the many ways our hearts can feel. One of the pages has a picture of the world on it, round and simple. The writing talks about how our hearts feel when we are brave, and every time we come to it Mercy points to the very far curve of the world and says, “Look mama! This is where I be brave on the edge.”

Brave on the edge. There’s something to that, isn’t there? I know how to do it when I’m smack in the comfy cozy middle. That’s the easy stuff, it’s just “what is.” But if I am paying attention I’ll see that when I come to the end of something, there is a bridge that can take me from edge to edge. There is a choice we get to make, when our life doesn’t make sense. When bad things happen for no reason, when the answer is no when we so desperately want a yes. It’s what we do when we decide to move from this point that makes all the difference in our growth. Stay stuck, like the sad little ant that loses its trail, waiting for the path to reappear (it won’t) or waiting for someone to tell us what to do next. But faith happens to be the bridge, and we can’t see it until we decide to move forward. Having faith doesn’t mean we get what we want and it doesn’t mean we get to go back to where we were going before. Faith takes us to an entirely new place.

New ways require a stronger faith, that is, the belief that there is Someone Good who wants Good for us. Believing that is easy when life is easy. And it’s nearly impossible when life is shattered glass at your feet. You can’t walk on broken shards, you need something to carry you over it. You need a bridge. We all do.

What I admire about my California friend is that she didn’t insult the pain by offering up clichés and shallow words. She didn’t try and fix it or be the bridge for me. She spoke truth, she let herself go right up to the edge, and she showed me how to be brave. The best friends are the ones who lead you to your own courage, your own bridge, and stay with you along the way.

At the end of our talk, I mentioned that I haven’t been blogging much, that there is some new fear wrapped up in writing in this messy and honest format. And she said, “I hear you, I do. But Sarah, write anyways.”

And so, here I am. Brave at the edge.