Take Heart ~ Finding Courage Right Where You Are (Part 1)

I’ve been waiting to write this because I kept telling myself that I wasn’t qualified to talk to you about courage.  My inner monologue said I haven’t done enough, risked enough,or changed the world enough to call myself courageous.  My life has been too ordinary.  My impact is too small to matter.

But that script looping through my mind is a lie.  It’s a lie that silences, undermines, and keeps me from stepping forward into what Jesus asks of me.

I don’t have time for these lies anymore.  And neither do you.

2020 is going to be a year we look back on as a pivotal shift in our collective and individual history.  This is already certain (and as I write this, we are only halfwaythrough the year).

This lesson I have been learning for the last few years of my life is even more important now: we have to proactively choose courage right where we are.

Every life requires it.

Every life. Mine. Yours.

This time of pandemic-mandated disconnection from our normal routines has reaffirmed this for me: we have to learn how to encourage our own souls.  We have to learn how to pick up our hope and hold onto it with unrelenting determination.

Our “normal” can change in an instant and all we have for sure is this present moment, the place we’re in, the people around us.  When everything around us is chaotic and when fear is tangible, we have the power within us to speak up for what is right, to love even when the emotion doesn’t come easy, to bring light when darkness is heavy.

I can’t stop thinking about how Jesus tells us to ‘take heart’ and wondering how we do that.  I can’t stop thinking about how I’ve gotten the idea of courage all mixed up with fairy tale quests when it is our every day hours that call for our boldest bravery.  What is courage?  Why do we need it?  How do we find it?  How do we keep it?

Maybe it was the Disney movies.  Maybe it was the stack of fantasy novels I read and re-read.  Whatever the root, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the idea of a quest, a grand adventure, a circumstance that gave space for a character to transform from an ordinary person into someone important, someone tasked with great responsibility to help the world, someone on a mission.  As I burrowed into books about western exploration, missionaries who went into the most dangerous or far-away places of need, and heroes of World War II, this yearning for adventure morphed into a belief that bravery looked like leaving everything behind, starting a new life, risking absolutely everything for the sake of a cause or a people.

Which is, of course, true.  But that’s one call to courage.  It’s not the only one.

At some point, I began to discount daily, right-where-I-was purpose.  I began to believe that I would only be brave if I found an enormous take-on-the-entire world feat… and, on the flip side of that, when I ended up choosing marriage and motherhood, I felt a sense of vague failure.  My idea of big courage did not seem to fit with the life I was living.

What is courage?

Let’s start with the simple dictionary definition (we’re going to also see how God defines it for us in a page or two).  Webster defines it like this: Courage is the mental or moral strength to persevere, and withstand danger or fear.Withstand means to stand up against, to oppose with firm determination, to resist successfully, to be proof against… even further back in its history, to withstand means to stop or obstruct the course of something (don’t forget this definition…we’ll come back to it!).

As I’m sitting in the car, waiting for my son to grab a few final things from his college dorm room that we have moved him into and out of in just the span of three weeks because of Covid-19, I’m watching the latest news of riots and protests filling my twitter feed and feeling the weight of a few personal struggles filling my heart.  More than ever, I am well aware that “fear and danger” are not reserved for certain professions or lifestyles.

We all know the way fear can knot in our stomachs.  We all know safety is not guaranteed, not for any of us.

In the course of our normal, day-to-day lives, we cannot predict or control what we will face.  We can’t know what is coming our way on a personal level and we can’t predict how the larger circumstances around us will change.  Any illusions of control I still held, and even my ability to depend on “facts” given to us by leaders, has certainly been undone this year.

With uncertainty and ever-increasing chaos around us, with cynicism and tragedy, with the aggressive division we are witnessing ~ does it take big courage to fully love others, to give, to try new things, to keep our hearts vulnerable and open, to do the work at hand, show mercy, to speak up for justice, to build relationships, to choose joy, to live the abundant life Jesus promises?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Our every-day routines, the year-in and year-out normal me and normal you exists on an earth full of sin, sickness, grief, violence, hatred, and death.  Our every-day exists in the middle of a spiritual battle, one that is not with other people on this planet, but with principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age. In John 10:10, Jesus clearly tells us there’s a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

If we live in denial that the world around us is broken and that hardships are going to come, then we can’t be prepared when they do.  2 Corinthians 2 tells us that we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes… and Ephesians 6 tells us to put on our armour so we can take a stand against them.

We have to be able to stand up and oppose “with firm determination” what is wrong, even if we are the only ones standing.  We have to resist fear even when it is trying to eat us alive.  We have to resist sin even when it’s easier to give into it.  We are the living proof that people don’t have to stay broken and defeated.

If not us, who else will do it?  We’re the people who were once far away but have been brought close to God. (Eph. 2:13)  Who else can better understand that change is possible?  We’re the people who have been set free from fear… who else can live as a people of hope?

 

{Editor’s note: see Part 2 of this series posted here on 9/21/20, God willing.}

1 Merriam-Webster
2 Ephesians 6:12

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