The Bravest Prayer
The other day I went for a walk up to the ridgeline. Sometimes I’m so lost in thought I barely notice the views around me, but this day I actually paused at the top. As I came out of my thought-filled haze, I realized just how far I could see. Out past our cove and for miles in the distance stretched far-flung ranges of clear blue mountains. During the warm months, hiking in Appalachia means journeying through green tunnels of undergrowth. In winter, when the leaves lay flat against the earth, the shape of the land reveals itself. Vistas open up, paths appear out of nowhere— things become clear.
I used to think bravery meant scaling tall mountains or looking lions in the face, but as I stood on that hilltop the other day, letting my blood sing out to the open folds of the mountains, I realized— perhaps the bravest thing you can ever do is ask for clarity.
We, in our day-to-day lives, are like the mountains in summertime— busy, proliferate, full of lushness and a million tiny details. In the rush of it all, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes this happens by accident—and sometimes we deliberately add more to our landscape because the vista feels too big. Our brains are trained to hide things that don’t fit into its current view of reality, so when the truth is larger than the little space we’ve come to know as our identity, we unconsciously obscure it with tangles and to-do lists.
But there is something profoundly thrilling about the skyline revealed by a long winter. And there is something utterly freeing about being ready to experience the width of your own personhood with the bravest prayer: let me see clearly.
The other week a painting I had been eyeing online came up for sale and I missed the chance to purchase it. From the outside looking in, it was no big deal. Another piece of artwork will come along and there’s nothing wrong with a bare wall. Rationally, I knew all of this. But internally, I was a mess. I was so powerfully distraught over this seemingly small loss, I knew there had to be something else beneath my anguish. So all day I prayed: let me see this with clarity. The pieces started to float in— disjointed and tender— until a conversation with my therapist. “Is it possible,” she asked gently, “that losing this painting hurt because it touched the part of you that believes she doesn’t deserve what she truly longs for?”
My stomach dropped to the floor with the truth of these words, but my heart did something entirely different. It opened, vibrantly, and something inside of me began to hum with relief. I saw the truth behind my feelings— and with that realization, I was free.
We often resist clarity because we’re afraid of what we will see. If I understand the full truth of myself, my job, my family, my relationship… what will change? Who will I be? But every time we touch the truth, no matter how radical or surprising, it opens a passage into our wider being.
A teacher of mine once shared this wisdom with me— in the presence of truth, the heart always opens. No matter how hard the truth is, when it’s spoken, the heart relaxes because the heart naturally dilates in the presence of what is. If you’ve ever had a painful, but honest, conversation with a friend you know this intimately. The truth may be hard to express but, once you do, it’s as if life’s possibilities open to you once more. Praying for clarity is a signal to the world: I am ready. I am ready to see what I hid from my own self, because I am ready to embrace all the possibilities that exist on this profound journey of becoming me.
In my garden the snowdrops have bloomed in daubs of melted vanilla and the first golden crocuses have stretched their heads up from the soil. We are entering a special time here in the temperate world— that season when the ground becomes blanketed in color while the long sweeping views of winter remain just a little while longer. As the first clean vividness of spring seeps in, there is an invitation to inhabit a truly brave prayer: Let me see my life with clarity so I can grow bigger and more brilliant than ever before.
Because the truth is that there is so much magic waiting for you. And that truth is just too warm, wondrous, exquisite, love-filled and honest for you to miss out on.
When we see the truth, we are free to expand as widely and as wildly as our soul always intended. We open to vistas of beauty we never thought possible. This is the reality that awaits us on the other side of our bravest prayers. Because the truth is— the best is yet to come. You can trust it as fully as the snowdrops trust in spring’s warmth.