CATCH A TIGER BY HIS TAIL: AMELIA EARHART

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” -Amelia Earhart

 
           Though countless women from past and present inspire my desire to tear down walls of gender inequality (many of whom you are bound to read about if you continue to follow this blog), Ms. Earhart has ever been my paragon in this respect.  Perhaps it’s because we share a birthday (July 24th), a connection which inspires me to hope we also share a similar nature: tenacious, fearless, and unapologetic.  Perhaps it’s because she was so bold concerning issues I care about: namely the rights of women to control their own lives and push beyond the list of socially prescribed career and family roles.  Or perhaps it’s because I work with so many disenfranchised women who, for whatever reason, have resigned themselves to make the best of a cultural system which exploits and oppresses them.  And it’s women like Amelia Earhart who give me hope that through the simple decision to act, we can conquer the mindset which falsely and resignedly declares “Oh well.  It’s a man’s world.” 

        And, if I’m being completely honest, it has a little something to do with the fact that when I flick through a Google image search of her, I’m mesmerized by how rad she looks in her leather jacket and aviator goggles.
 I mean, even her appearance, from her pants to her aviator cap to her grim and gritty grin, is a slap in the face of traditional gender roles.  Without words, each photo whispers “I won’t conform to your expectations of who and what I should be and that’s your problem, not mine.  So while you wrap your head around the audacity of a woman in trousers standing up for and making her own life choices, I’m going to go fly this plane.”

        While it is all of these aspects which cause me to admire her, the most inspiring thing about Amelia Earhart has nothing to do with fighting against gender inequality.  Quite simply, I’m in awe of the fact that she wanted to do something and she did it, despite the fact that it was difficult and despite the fact that it was scary and despite the fact that it had never been done.

         Start here to learn that she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences, was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots, taught at Purdue University aviation department, was a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

        It’s true that Ms. Earhart disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the globe in her plane and is presumed dead, but this should not diminish any aspect of her life including all the accomplishments she achieved in her short 39 years.  The fact that she died as a result of attempting one of her goals doesn’t shake me in the least.  In fact, it reminds me of a quote by playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “Death is the ultimate statistic.  One out of one dies.”  The question for us, then, is never “Will I die?”  The question is only ever, “Will I live?”

        This is the same ideology I present to well-meaning people in my life who are at odds with some of my own life choices.  I’m often asked by family members and friends, “Aren’t you scared to travel to a third-world country?”  “Isn’t it dangerous to go to strip clubs? Especially in the name of Jesus?”  To which, I can only reply, “Yes.”  Yes, I’m scared…  Yes, it’s dangerous…  And it’s the ellipses which follows this exchange that makes me smile every time because it’s within the pregnant pause I pray the idea is eventually birthed in their minds: Why should danger and fear hinder action?

      I’m thoroughly convinced that it shouldn’t.  Under no circumstances should fear and danger ever trump the right and the desire of a person to truly live.  I’m sure fear was present when Amelia climbed into the cockpit of the first plane she ever flew, when Susan B. Anthony cast her first ballot, and when sixty Saudi Arabian women each got behind the wheel of a car as a protest against a kingdom-wide ban on female drivers.  But where would we be if these women and others like them let that fear guide their lives and dictate their actions?

        Fear will always accompany courageous acts.  In fact, true courage can actually only exist when there is risk involved, when there is truly something to fear.  Because courage is not the absence of fear.  It is, rather, the decision to act in the face of fear. And as my girl, AE, points out, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”

         But courage is even more poignant in the life of a believer, because courage  can have providential consequences.  Courage is exemplified by Moses standing before Pharaoh with nothing but a staff and a word from God, declaring, “Let my people go!”  Courage is David, tiny and unarmored, swinging a slingshot around in the face of a giant seasoned warrior.  Courage is Daniel refusing to bow to the statue of a powerful king.  Courage is a sinful woman walking across a crowded room of religious people, bowing before Jesus, breaking open her alabaster box, and anointing his feet.  Courage is Jesus in the garden, sweating drops of blood, begging that the cup pass, before declaring, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Each of these people weighed the goal against the risks, and found the goal to be worth the pain and danger.

        This is true freedom.  Not living your life devoid of fear and pain, but daring to live despite the fear and pain.  True freedom is choosing to live for a cause greater than yourself, a cause that is worth the risks involved.  For me, that cause is Christ.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I could die.  Sure.  But it’s worth it to really live and to see others live.  And if you’re a believer, death should not scare you anyway.  As Paul said, “To die is gain.”

         Be sure that you were not created to live a small, secure, petty, typical life.  You were created for a unique purpose and you were bought with a price.  Your life matters and your actions ripple throughout eternity.  So what is it you’re going to do with this one wild and precious life you’ve been given?  Where is your passion and what fears stand between you and your goals?  Why let them have any sway over your decisions?  The adventure is worthwhile in and of itself, but the goals are what make it worth the risks. The fears are paper tigers.  They look ferocious but are of little to no substance.  Your fears of the future, of what people think about you, or what they can do to you, your fear of failure, your financial fears and social fears, fear of inadequacy, fear of embarrassment, etc., etc….none of them have any real power over you.  They’re made of paper which crumples before your courage.

        So now that we have the proverbial paper tiger by the tail, how do we crush him?  It’s quite simple really: act.  Do the thing that you’re scared to do.   “Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” -Amelia Earhart

        So, jump in that plane and find that you can soar.

 

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