What Is Courage?

When I think of courage I often think of war heroes charging the banks of Normandy who died before their feet even reached dry ground.  I think of the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima.  I think of muscle-bound athletes, boundary shattering geniuses, visionary missionaries, and brave teachers in movies like Freedom Writers.

Those people are incredibly brave and courageous, and I am greatly inspired by their examples, but they do not completely define courage.

Recently God has been bringing parts of my past to light and helping me to find more freedom.  I wrote about one aspect of this in my March 12 post What to Do with Your Past.

Discovering a place in my life that needs more freedom can actually be scary for me.

Not long ago an unexpected event brought old experiences to light, old experiences I had not thought about in quite a while; years maybe.  The unexpected surfacing of those experiences from deep within my psyche was not only surprising but also disturbing and disorienting.

I was feeling a lot of fear.

I thought I had dealt with those experiences, prayed over them, and received healing for them.  I thought they were archived never to be seen except in highlight reels and then only if absolutely necessary.

I was only partly right.  I had done all I had known to do, but there was more work to do.

I had two options as I saw it:

  1. Go around the issues and stuff my reaction.
  2. Go through the issues and trust God to make me stronger through it.

In the past I might have chosen Option 1, but I have slowly been learning that better things lie through an issue than around an issue.  In fact, if you go around the issue you will probably find yourself running up against the same issue again and essentially running in circles.

My choice really had to do with how I decided to react to my fear.

Earlier this year Michael Hyatt wrote a blog post entitled Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear.  As I thought about his post and walked through this experience I came up with my own definition for courage.  This definition is probably not original with me, but here it is just the same:

Courage is perseverance in the face of fear.

You and I do not have to charge a bunker or break a record or leap off a mountain in a glide suit in order to demonstrate courage.  All we have to do is take the next step in the right direction in spite of our fear.

By the way, I decided to walk through my issues despite my fear, and the freedom I found on the other side was breathtaking.  God came through!  (Who is surprised here?)

Where in your life do you need to persevere in the face of your fear?

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Fearless Living

At the beginning of Advent we sing carols of petition and preparation such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.  These carols echo Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s coming in Isaiah 7:14 where the Lord says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

In Luke 1 Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, also prophesies of the coming of the Messiah:  “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel turns this prophecy into a prayer: “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

Just before those words in Luke 1, however, Zechariah says, ”The Lord . . has raised up a horn of salvation . . to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Jesus came not only to rescue us but also to enable us to serve God without fear.

Do you struggle with fear?

I have often given in to fear.

At my core I love to please people.  In relationships my default setting is to do what I need to do to make certain everything is ok.  In reality this default setting can become one of fear.

If I am feeling insecure I become fearful of what others think of me.  I make assumptions about what people are thinking.  Then I adjust my behavior to suit what I think they might be thinking.

Sound confusing?  That’s because it is.  Fear complicates life and obscures reality.

Christ came to give the gift of a simple life without fear, just one of his many gifts to us.

Where in your life do you tend to act in fear?  How can you rely more on God in that area of your life?

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again.

I wish someone had told me this is elementary school, don’t you?  I wish someone had told me it was alright to fail, that I most likely WOULD fail.  A lot.  That failure was even necessary.

And I should celebrate it.

Think about it.  When you have you learned the most in your life?

Have you learned the most when you succeeded on a grand scale, or when you have colossally failed?  I would wager you have learned the most in the latter circumstance.

I have.

I tell my musicians that I would rather them make a huge, loud mistake than play or sing timidly and make an unheard mistake.  Here’s why:

  1. I can only help them fix the mistakes I hear.  Timid musicians never improve.  You must risk yourself to improve.
  2. Timid musicians rob us of all the good stuff.  While you play quietly for fear of making a mistake, chances are 75% of what you do will still be good.  Who cares, though?  If you play quietly, I will never hear you.  You might as well turn off your guitar or mouth the words.

When you are tempted to timidly toe dunk into a risky world where you might fail, think about this:

  1. Risk is required for improvement.  Make a mistake.  The worst that could happen is that you could *gasp* find an area to improve.
  2. Don’t selfishly rob us of your successes.  Yes, embracing risk, whatever it is, pretty much guarantees some failure somewhere.  If you shy away from risk for fear of failing, however, you are going to rob us of all your successes along the way.

By the way, I have been thinking about this topic because, well, I need to hear it as much as you do.  So skip the toe dunk for a cannonball, OK?  I’m right there with you.

Where do you need to take a risk even though you might fail?

ink

I forget where I first saw this line, but I find it so true:

Ink is cheap therapy.

I’m talking about writing, not tattoos.  I have no experience with the latter, and do not care to.  Writing, on the other hand, is a dear friend.  Sometimes I find that simply sitting down and writing helps my mind unkink itself.  Seeing your thoughts on paper somehow makes them more real, more permanent, more . . . kinetic.

Fears or dreams roaming in the mind do little more than upset mental furniture.  In order to produce change in the world these thoughts have to be released on the world as we know it.  Once they are released the laws of physics kick in: every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.

Once I wrote a thought down and I was immediately repulsed and embarrassed by it.  I could not blot it out fast enough.  Many other times I found peace spreading through my soul as I wrote out my thoughts and the words God seemed to be placing on my heart.  For better or for worse we speak things into existence when we write them.

Writing becomes even deeper therapy when we write what has hurt us, grieved us, saddened us.  I find peace as I acknowledge what I am feeling.  Over the past few years I have done hospital visits from time to time in my church work and I have found, as my dad explained to me once, that people just want to be heard.  Everyone wants to be validated, to know that their feelings matter and are not lost in the sea of humanity.  You do not need to agree with them, you simply need to validate their thoughts, feelings and opinions.

When no one is around to tell us our thoughts and feelings matter, writing is our way of telling ourselves your thoughts and feelings matter.  You are not crazy.  Acknowledging and validating feelings and thoughts and experiences allows us to move on and not be trapped by them.  Feelings such as fear, and memories of injuries and wrongs are poison, and if we do not rid our system of the poisons floating around in our bodies, we will not be able to live fully as God intended.  Fear, and Satan himself, only have a hold on us when we hide in secrecy.  His biggest fear is that we will bring things out into the light and see that we can indeed move on and find healing.

Ink is cheap therapy.  What do you need to write down so that you can move on?