I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Annie Downs. We talked about college ministry, books, football, Nashville, and bravery in our everyday lives. Downs is bright, funny, considerate, thoughtful, tough and smart. She is the author of three different books, a speaker, and a blogger
. Her book,Let’s All Be Brave, changed the way I look at college ministry, courage, and compassion.When I was talking to Downs, I felt as though I was catching up with an old and dear friend. She is a substantial person, and I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you.
What is the best advice you have ever given or received?
I’ve probably received much better advice than I’ve ever given. A pastor told me a couple of years ago, “How much you value yourself really matters.” He was talking about how to find balance in your life and about what you prioritize. The idea that what value you place on yourself and what value you place on other people matters. If you can’t take care of yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally, you can’t help other people. In the long run, you’ll burn out. This idea of learning to value who you are and what you need has been and is so significant to me.
Your book Let’s All Be Brave centers around the courage that comes with a strong faith in God and a willingness to follow Him into unknown territory. What does a commitment to bravery look like in an everyday walk with God?
I think that there are opportunities in our everyday to be brave. The bigger challenge is opening your eyes to those opportunities. Today I had lunch with a friend and I had the opportunity to tell her what I’m working through or not to tell her. I had the opportunity to be brave and tell her what I think and what is going on in my life, even if it’s vulnerable or risky or even if I’m wrong. That was a brave move for me, today. For college students, every class you’re taking and decision you’re making is pointing towards an end goal. There’s a lot of courage in pursuing a future, in pursuing the next thing, whether that’s more classes or a job or a family. It takes courage to look into the next season of life where you’re going and prepare well for it.
As someone who is involved in college ministry, what is the best way for family, friends, and those in the church to embrace and encourage college students?
I think it looks like being generous. That’s what I tell people all the time, even college students ministering to high schoolers and middle schoolers. The best thing we can do for college students or anyone in the next generation is to be generous, not just with your money (though financial help is great), but being generous with your time, your home, with what you know. Simply grabbing coffee with a college student and telling them your story can teach people a lot and can teach them about what they’re looking for in life and where they’re going. It takes a lot of generosity to invest in the next generation. In whatever way you can, be generous to them because it’s teaching them to learn how to be generous to other people, too.
Life is full of commitments, iPhone calendar updates, deadlines, Starbucks coffee, and exclamation points. How do you rest? How do you invest in yourself?
For me, rest often looks like time with friends. I’m such an extrovert – that’s how I work. Rest is time with the people that matter to me. Rest is reading, but because I read and write professionally professionally, I get tired. Something I’ve recently discovered is rest looks like watching sports. I’ve just come to better understand it in myself in the last half year. I need to recognize when I watch professional soccer and football, I feel like I’m resting and it feels great. That wouldn’t be the same for everybody, but God put that in me and I love it.
You’ve talked in Let’s All Be Brave and your blog about singleness and the difficulty of writing about singleness. What were your thoughts while writing that chapter on singleness? What advice do you have for single women?
I still don’t love writing about it, because it feels personal. However, I’ve realized that there aren’t a lot of single women that have my platform, so I don’t have much of a choice. Well, I guess that’s not true. I don’t feel forced, but I recognize that I want obedience and I want God more than I want to feel comfortable. That’s easier to say in an interview than it is when you’re trying to live it, but that’s my goal. I think part of talking about it is that people gain a lot of hope when you talk about something you’re going through while you’re in it. It’s really easy to talk about the struggles of singleness once you’re married, like “it was really hard but look at me now.” For a single person, that’s a whole different experience than someone who is in our life stage saying you’re going to be okay, you’re going to love your life and it will be fulfilling. You don’t stop hoping and you don’t give up. I think that really matters – being able to offer people hope from within the same place. That’s why I do it, more than anything else. I recognize that there is a special hope that you can share with other people by talking about a situation.
Callie Hyde is an honors student at Baylor University. She writes for a blog called Sincerely, Callie (www.sincerelycallie.com) and is part of Baylor Spiritual Life’s Freshman Retreat, a small group leader at Highland Baptist Church, a Green’s Scholar, and co-creator of Open Book, a group for Baylor freshmen that encourages fellowship and faith with other Christians seeking mentorship and friendship.