I’ve been planning a tattoo with my daughter, who has almost reached her 18th birthday. She has sketched it over and over, perfected the slopes, and debated whether to add trees or birds within the circular border. Above it all is etched two small words I knew needed to be inscribed on my body the moment I saw them.
Dal Ziel, which means “I Dare”.
These Gaelic words appear in no google search, and I hesitate to even put this out there on the internet for fear that someone will steal my thunder. They have become a kind of family motto, or perhaps a family goal, that we are still figuring out along the way. I came across them on page 1 of A Chance to Die, the biography of pioneer missionary Amy Carmichael written by Elizabeth Elliot, another amazing woman of faith, and missionary to the people group who martyred her husband.
Elliot writes, “It was said that King Kenneth II of Scotland had offered a reward to any of his subjects who would dare to remove from the gallows the body of the King’s friend and kinsman who had been hanged. One stepped forward and said in Gaelic, ‘Dal Ziel,’ which means, I dare. So Dalziel became his name. That spirit was not much diluted in [ Amy Carmichael, his descendant].
The daring that accompanies people of great faith has always intrigued me. It pushes me into dusty pages to find out what life was like for believers in Jesus outside of my century. There is a holy boldness demonstrated throughout the lives of these grandparents of faith that challenges me in a way that my own generation does not. I long to see finishers, knowing that in the story of my life I may not have even encountered the main storyline yet.
I used to come away from these stories dreaming about doing what they did. The dream became those far off places, cultures different from mine, and faith steps across oceans. The dare to go, to do, to stand up for the right thing was intoxicating.
I wanted to be a person of Dal Ziel.
But despite openness to go, I am living in the same town a decade later where I dare in completely different ways that for the longest time felt like they didn’t count. Today I dare to engage the imperfect system of foster care in hopes of loving children who need it. I dare to talk to the other preschool moms, though I won’t be there for long. I dare to bring up Imago Dei, the source of human dignity, within a secular space. I dare to value generosity more than my own personal gain. I dare to embrace disciplines that lead me to love God more. I dare to confront, and correct, to take correction, and to heed wise counsel. I desire to dare to do whatever God calls me to.
Holy boldness is not dependent on the action taken, but on the character of God who we can recklessly follow across oceans or living rooms. The more I lean into stories of faithful people outside my lifespan, the more I see God’s fingerprints at work in my own life.
These are the stories of risk, hope, daring and boldness that cause me to catch my breath. I am astounded at stories of missionaries taking their calling so seriously that they packed their belongings in their coffin and boarded a boat knowing they would likely never return. For people to risk so much, there must have been a compelling cause.
The God who called them to extraordinarily bold endeavors is the same today. May we be people who dare to live boldly in light of the Savior’s love, no matter where it takes us. May we be compelled, not complacent.
Holly writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him.