Hollywood is a big fat liar. Yeah, I said it. Not sorry either. At all. You know what I am talking about... The protagonist hero in some blockbuster movie that stands on the edge of doom and screams his defiance as he leaps without hesitation into the abyss. Bull-crap! They feed us this line of dumb-assery that if we fear, if we hesitate - that somehow we fail in being courageous. Like the simpy Cowardly Lion, we are aggravating, irritating and a blubbering mass of uselessness unless we bull forward into oblivion, nary a care or consideration in our midst. To this end, I say "Nuh-uh!"
Courage has so little to do with being fearless. Courage has been lauded and sought after, pursued and bastardized so often and so brazenly we have completely lost sight of what it looks like. Courage isn't standing in the midst of the fray, swinging wildly about without fear of pain, failure or personal destruction. Courage is, in fact, the opposite. Courage, when properly viewed, will look less like "Braveheart" and more like Charlie Brown. Courage trembles, courage sweats, courage can even cry, but ultimately, courage steps forward and in spite of the fear does what needs doing.
Google "courage" and you are bound to find some gems. I found quotes from Nelson Mandela, C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain but the two that struck me where I live came from more modern and gritty sources.
The first is my husband's hero, John Wayne, who put it simply, "Courage is being scared to death... And saddling up anyway." Amen, Duke! When put that way, it comes clear that the kind of bravery we are talking about isn't without reservation. In fact, it has all kinds of hesitation and reasons why I shouldn't have to step up and step out. It reminds me that most things God asks me to do require a good measure of courageous behavior. When He asks me to write outside of my comfort zone, when He tells me to say something encouraging to a stranger, when my kids come to me with issues I thought I would never have to deal with... Those require my decision to be courageous and saddle up anyway. There is definitely fear. There is reservation. There is the thought that I am not nearly good enough, capable enough or worthy to do any of those things. But God doesn't tell me to do the stuff I think I can. God tells me to do the things I know HE can.
The second quote doesn't mention courage by name, but it nails it none the less. Julien Smith said recently, "To focus on negative outcomes and hurtful criticism is a good way to ensure failure. Giving power to our doubts is an invitation for our feet to slip off the tightrope." I live there folks, up on the high wire, chanting ridiculously, "Don't look down..." I live there in that land of "What if someone is offended by what I say?" "What if I am not universally liked?" "What if I fail?" Julien reminds me that we all have those thoughts. No one is an island of constant confidence and utter heroism. He reminds me that it is what I choose to do in spite of the fear that matters.
Simplified further, so that I might grab it with both hands and shake it into focus:
- Courage is writing what God says I should, not what I think you want to hear.
- Courage is losing some one you dearly love and moving on with life, no matter how stilted, because you never know who you might touch with your action.
- Courage is saying yes to letting your kids drive when so much could go wrong.
- Courage is allowing failure so that there may be education in the midst of the struggle.
- Courage is falling in love again, even though it never worked out before.
- Courage is letting go of control because you never really had it anyway.
- Courage is being unjustly ridiculed for the sake of Christ and continuing on that path still.
- Courage is confronting a bully even if it means embarrassment.
- Courage is feeling your heart pound, your knees get weak and your blood grow cold and doing it anyway.
The biggest lie about courage is that it is always met with success or happiness or gain. Sometimes courage looks a lot like failure. Don't buy it. It may look like your courageous act fell flat, had no impact, fizzled out impotently. Behind the scenes, however, you cannot know what plan God is working together. Like gazing at the back of a tapestry, you may get the gist of the pattern, it may look vaguely like this or that, but the nuances of what God is creating cannot be seen until He allows us the view from the front row. That, my friends, comes only when we are seated with Him.
When I am tempted to tell God that I cannot do something because I just don't have the courage to step forward, I must remember this: That is exactly the point at which He is asking me to do it anyway. On the edge of the abyss, knees knocking, heart pounding and certain of doom and utter failure - Do it anyway. He isn't counting on my abilities... He's asking me to count on His.