I received a very encouraging email today. A dear friend, with whom I have had many conversations about life and faith, wrote to share some exciting news. She has recently said yes to an opportunity to serve and she wanted me to know. She attributed her brave decision at least in part to her participation in our Being Brave retreat in October and the group’s encouragement to her to step out in faith and believe in the gifts she has to offer.

I share this not to pat myself on the back for my influence in her brave journey, but to remind all of us courage is contagious. My curiosity about what it means to be brave led me to offer the retreat. My fellow adventurers that day took a chance by attending and sharing their stories with one another. In the weeks since that day, I have been excited to hear about their decisions to try new things, have tough conversations and step out of their comfort zone. My friend who contacted me today is going to be a huge blessing in her new role and will have the opportunity to influence others to be brave. Every time we say yes to the brave dream in our heart and take one step forward, we contribute to a more hopeful vision for the world.

My friend Kelly over at Mrs Disciple chose hope for this week’s Friday Five. As I considered what I might offer to the conversation, I thought about how brave it is to choose hope. Hope does not offer a guarantee or certainty. Hope believes good is just around the corner and the best is yet to come, but it is not always clear on the details. Hope has both a desire and expectation for a particular outcome. For believers, hope is inextricably linked with faith. As it says in Hebrews, faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Looking towards the new year, here are a few brave hopes I have for us after the reminder from my friend today:

I hope we will be brave enough to reject cynicism. As we have talked about here before, cynicism is the opposite of hope and the opposite of brave. Cynicism throws in the towel and gives up. Cynicism doesn’t bother to try. Cynicism is easier than hoping in the face of discouragement, failure and disappointment. In recent weeks, violence and fear have dominated the news and it is sometimes difficult to see flickers of light amidst all the darkness. Defaulting to despair is understandable, but not the brave choice. Believing light will ultimately win requires faith, courage and hope.

I hope we will be brave enough to get our hearts broken. Caring passionately and loving deeply requires vulnerability. When we pour ourselves out for a cause or for another person, we put ourselves at risk of being hurt. My daughter is going through the break up of a relationship right now and she is heartbroken. While it is difficult to see her hurting, I am grateful she sees the value of risking herself to love another person. People are messy and difficult to love sometimes. In spite of the risks, loving deeply is what we were created to do and pursuing our passion brings meaning to our life.

I hope we will be brave enough to believe our stories matter. We live in an age of overwhelming content. So many voices with so much to say. What difference could our story possibly make when others are so much better at storytelling? Yet the combination of our history, our experiences, our talents, our connections, our resources, our suffering and our passions position us uniquely in our communities. We might not be able to change the world, but we can definitely impact our little corner of it for good should we choose to believe we can. When we share our stories, we invite others to do the same.

I hope we will be brave enough to embrace our gifts. Each of us is born with certain talents and personality characteristics. People of faith believe these gifts are given to us by God for the greater good. When we downplay our unique God given abilities or lament they aren’t as good as someone else’s, we miss out on the opportunity to be part of the tapestry woven together by the One who sees the bigger picture. When we humbly offer those gifts to be used to bless others, we will find ourselves living lives of meaning and joy.

I hope we will be brave enough to fight for the Kingdom.  Jesus complimented the religious scholar on his understanding of the greatest commandment. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit and loving your neighbor as yourself would bring him and us right to the border of God’s Kingdom. Living connected to God and to each other reminds us we are not alone. We belong to God and we belong to each other. Living lives of isolation and disconnection will never bring us joy. Remembering we belong to each other gives us hope that all will ultimately be well, even when all evidence points to the contrary.

Maybe this can be our brave thought for 2016: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

What are your brave hopes for the New Year?