In March of 2014, Mer and I started having serious talks about UCA being a real thing and on May 7th of that year we launched our website and a fundraising video. That makes May 7th the unofficial birthday of Urban Christian Academy. The big #2 is coming up and it has us feeling all the feels. So be prepared for some birthday reflections and celebrations in the coming weeks.
For now though, there’s a topic I just have to speak into. Over the past 2 years Mer and I have been called brave at least 100 million times. It’s always a little perplexing because we don’t feel very brave at all. So here are some thoughts on all that:
When I became an aunt something triggered inside of me. I thought I would love my new pal Ellie like I loved the kids in the city who have captured my heart. But when that little niece of mine first said “KK” as she looked at me with those blue eyes, my heart was arrested. I don’t even like babies, but I found myself wanting to protect her, wanting to always wipe the tears away, wanting to live a life worthy of the Gospel so she could see Jesus’ fingerprints in my life. She’s two now and the other night I was tucking her in and I stood by her bed until I was sure she was fast asleep. But as I headed for the door she started whimpering, “Aunt Kalie you can’t leave because if you leave I’ll cry and I need YOU to wipe away my tears.” You better believe I stayed and held that little girl's hand. The best words that I can think of that describe how I feel are these: momma. bear. And I now for each of you, there are people in your life that you feel momma bearish or poppa bearish towards.
There’s a funny thing that happens when you’re in the college and career stage of life. I’ve watched countless friends who were nurtured and raised in Christian homes. Homes where the end goal was to know Jesus and make Him known to others. Homes led by parents who dream and pray fervently that their children's hearts would be captured by Jesus. But then a scary thing happens. God answers their prayers. And those little girls and little boys turn into college students whose hearts are captured for the Kingdom. I've watched friends of mine say to their parents, “I feel like God is calling me to postpone college and serve in Iraq to spread the Gospel to orphans.” or “I know I have to drop the dream of becoming a doctor to become a pastor.” or “I am going to move to the inner city to illuminate the Gospel in the darkest places.” and as these words are said, momma bears rise up and shatter dreams, they roar so loud they overpower the whisper of the Spirit, they change legacies to protect safety.
It’s heart breaking.
You can ask anyone who knows me well about my level of bravery and they will quickly let you know I am by far the least brave person in my family…maybe in the world. In a family full of biker dudes and roller-blading-off-the-back-of-a-truck siblings, I refuse to get on because I get so scared that I can’t breathe. I would rather go hungry than report to the teenage kid at McDonalds that they got my order wrong. I will still climb up my dad’s back if a puppy enters a room. I have over 60 mouse traps in my house because I saw a mouse in my room once.
And yet so many people look at my life and they use the word “brave” to describe it. I have very few reservations about living in the city. I really feel confused about why people think it’s so brave. I just knew that there was no where else I could be and feeling like I was being a faithful friend to Jesus.
It took 3% courage for me to live east of Troost. It took 97% courage from my family. I could literally see the fear in my grandma’s eyes as we’d talk. My parents and I had countless conversation about safety and the reality of living in the city and finances and all the things that momma bears and poppa bears are required to do before they send their little baby bears out. But in the end it cost me very little. I am living my dream. Oh sure, you could fill several pages with all the worst case scenarios that might play out, dream chasers rarely take the time to dwell there...momma bears do. They do it because they know they will be the ones left picking up the pieces if any of those worst case scenarios transpire. Being a momma bear or poppa bear takes immense courage.
Some of the most vivid pictures of God's character are seen through rich momma and poppa bear love for their baby cubs. You should be a bear. Ask hard questions. But don’t be a dream stealer. It would have been so easy for my family to say no. To put up a fight and guilt me into a simpler life. They could have manipulated me into using my gifts to serve the church family I grew up in or to stay rooted close by. That would have been more convenient and picturesque. But they had the courage to let me dream.
Some of you have raised kids who are wild about Jesus, or you’ve married guys who are fearless followers of His way or you have great friends who are passionate about the lost and you need to let them chase their God-give dreams. Often times the bravest thing required of us is to let those precious cubs run into the arms of Jesus. Even if the risk is that they might fall down along the way. Or experience great heartache. Or severe loss. Please don’t raise kids to know and love Jesus and then tell them it’s too dangerous to actually follow Him. Often times the way of Jesus is reckless and dangerous and financially precarious…and yet in the end it leads to life to the fullest.
The truth is, those little people in your life, your husband and your friends, those are all gifts from God...gifts to steward, gifts to hold with an open hand knowing they belong fully to God not exclusively to you. And although it takes gut wrenching courage to keep your hands open, God's plan for them is far more beautiful than anything you could imagine.
I’ve watched so many young people walk away from Jesus because a momma bear was standing guard in front of Him keeping her kid away. And if you growl and put your big claws up in front of Jesus reaching out for your kids, they might walk away. And the hand reaching out for them in the other direction will happily snatch them up. How happy Satan must be to see so many of God's children prioritizing safety above God's call.
So roar, momma bears. Roar with all the fierceness of your gruff self but make sure it’s alongside Jesus. Not in front of Him.