What is the bravest things you've done lately? Well, for me, it is tennis.
Yes, you read that right. I began taking tennis lessons just over a month ago. I started partly so I could learn to volley the ball back and forth to the boys, who have been taking lessons for the past six months.
However, I admit that the larger reason I began taking tennis lessons is to face a deep fear of mine. It's not a fear of tennis exactly (now that would be silly, wouldn't it?) It's a more complex fear that looks something like this:
Neophobia (fear of anything new) + Scopophobia (fear of being looked at) + Ataxiophobia (fear of muscular incoordination) + Atychiphobia (fear of failure) + Enissophobia (fear of criticism) + Xanthophobia (fear of the color yellow - admit it, those small yellow balls whizzing toward your head are terrifying!)
When I parked at the courts for my first lesson I sat behind the steering wheel fighting back tears. One might think I was about to single-handedly face the Williams sisters. I told my coach to teach me just as he would Reed and admitted how terrified I was. He smiled, encouragingly, but I knew he really had no clue how much baggage I was bringing onto the court.
Then something amazing happened. My coach tossed me the first ball...and I returned it. He tossed me the second one...and I returned it too. Forehands and backhands, I hit more balls than I missed. And with each whack, I sent a painful memory, a physical agreement, or a low expectation back over the net.
Over the past few years, I've seen that sometimes I enter into situations just to prove that I am brave. Those moments usually leave me trembling and terrified. Other times I enter into situations to face a fear, and I find myself seeing more clearly, breathing deeper, and smiling wider as I pass through to the other side still standing. I don't know how to explain it, but there is a difference - perhaps it is simply in my motives.
I no longer want to be held captive by fear. And I've found that life offers surprising invitations to face our fears for the sake of healing. For me, this has meant speaking, leading, running, writing, and so much more. And now the path of healing happens to include a racquet and little yellow ball. (And maybe, someday, a cute little tennis skirt.)