Courage, Part Three: Finding Courage and Pursuing Dreams

And here is where “my myopic heart” comes into play.

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I’m not gonna lie: I am in love with my new blog theme, because it perfectly captures the season of life in which I find myself.

Lately life has taught me that I tend to make judgments too quickly, hold opinions too closely, and speak my mind a little too loudly and enthusiastically. I have no filter, and that fact means I often walk away from conversations feeling ignorant and embarrassed.

I like to think I have a good and fervent heart. I like to think the reason I trip over my own brain so often is because I’m eager to please, to learn, to grow, and to help. Remember how I’m essentially a 5-year-old?

The issue is that there is so much I don’t know, so much I will never know, and yet I hate looking stupid, because I’m a very proud 5-year-old. So I fudge it and hope it passes muster.

This is no way to live, folks. If you act like you know everything, very few people will bother to help you figure out the truth.

My heart, earnest as it may be, still has some trials to go through before it can be counted reliable. It’s still tender in the wrong sort of ways; still idealistic and naive. And when I don’t put myself out there to be tested and taught, I allow it to stay soft. I’m not being courageous, because my heart isn’t working to grow.

The heart is a muscle. It has to be working, training, expanding its limits, if it is to get stronger. And, to avoid relapses, it has to be constantly growing.

But here’s the thing: I get so excited about things that I want to do, so I commit to all of them without any sense of reserve or discernment.

My heart has no foresight. I live in the present, for better or worse.

And then I got overwhelmed and start to panic and question everything I’ve ever known. And fear creeps in, and I freeze.

” For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

II Timothy 1:7

Fear immobilizes.

Courage can help us muscle through that sense of impending doom, but we can’t live our whole lives fighting back the fear. Peace comes when we surrender our wills and let God guide. Peace clears our head and helps us think rationally and with the future in mind. Peace allows us to act, even against insurmountable odds.

For the control freaks like me, here’s another way of looking at it: surrendering to God and letting Him take charge of our fears is a way of taking control. By letting go, you are no longer allowing yourself to be ruled by fear, but by reason and love. Peace is that sound mind.

So what do you do when you can’t find peace?

Saying “move past your fear” is all well and good, but so far I haven’t found an effective method for achieving this.

This is where courage and bravery get mangled. Our society puts a lot of stock in bravado: dying a hero’s death, paying the ultimate price, having a moment of clarity and sacrificing yourself for the greater good, going out and conquering the enemy, putting up a show to intimidate the other guy. But when we’re so wrapped up in finding a cause worth dying for, we forget about a cause worth living for.

A person’s metal is never truly proven until they are forced to stand in the face of overwhelming odds, of a world falling apart around them, of a darkness threatening to consume them – or the day when that darkness wins.

Here we come back to the girl in the story I’m afraid to write. She is living inside that darkness and trying to keep her own light shining. She’s committed herself. She knows the truth and she is willing to give all to defend it and those she loves. But she still feels conflicted. She has been courageous for a long time, but she’s worn out and she is still consumed by the fear of the unknown.

And, though she trusts in God, she has worked so long following her own solutions to her problems that she no longer feels close to Him. And that makes her doubt herself even more.

She was so used to carrying this weight; it was a part of her. If she laid it down now, at the feet of One who felt so distant, how would she be able to stand again? She knew He cried for her to give Him everything, but once she did, she had to trust that she would know what to do with whatever He gave her in return. What if it was nothing?

If she gave Him everything, would she even recognize what was left? What had been buried under this weight in her soul? What if that thing at the center of her being was what He wanted to use?

That isn’t enough. Why can’t You take what I already have? Why else would you have brought me through all of this horror if you didn’t want to use what I’ve gained?

So she turns to her mentor, Sooth, who is my favorite character I’ve never written.

“I want to let Him carry this. But then what? If I surrender this, I know He’ll give me something else. I’ll have to move on, to let go, to keep working. What if He asks too much of me? What if I can’t do it?”

“You say you trust Him.”

“Yes.”

“Then you must prove it. If you hesitate with every step, you do not trust Him. And He will love you no less for your hesitation. May I tell you what I think?”

“Of course.”

“I believe you are willing to give everything for this cause. I believe you would lay down your life if He asked it. So I do not think you are afraid that He will ask the ultimate price.”

“Then what?”

“You are afraid that He may not. You are afraid that He will ask you to press on. He may ask all of you, but by that request He will mean all of your life. He may ask that you keep surrendering, every day and every night; that you keep stepping forward, even when He has not revealed the way. He may ask you to continue your fight in this darkened world.”

She didn’t know how to answer. Seeing her frustration, Sooth smiled gently. “You have already proven your courage if you have reached the place where you find you would gladly die for Him. Now you must find enough courage to live for Him.”

“But how? How can I move on? I don’t know anything else.”

“Let go of your fear. Lay it all down. Give Him everything, and then give Him your empty hands to use. And if He is silent for a moment, be still and wait on Him. Maybe He is not calling you to move just yet. Maybe this is your next battle.”

It’s funny how my writing becomes the way I find answers to my heaviest questions.

I’ve talked about how one of my favorite stories in the Bible is the Fiery Furnace, and how those three young men faced down the king and said God was able to save them if He wanted. And then they said, “But if not,” and declared they were willing to die.

And I still love that story. However, while being able to say “but if not” proves my conviction in one way, my actions prove it more. I’ve never been asked to lay down my life for any cause, and that means I have to keep living.

A natural progression from learning about courage in class was to look at the armor of God. Once again my kids stared at me in a mixture of bemusement and mild interest as I pointed to this verse:

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:13

Because, like “but if not”, this verse gives me chills so badly I can’t talk straight. This is courage. And this is where courage meets peace: in the everyday, when we are equipped for battle but our lives have not been demanded, and yet we don’t back down; God hasn’t called us to move, so we stand firm until He directs. We stand ready.

I want to have the strength of heart to be ready and willing to jump at a moment’s notice, even if it’s a leap of faith and I have no control over where I’m going.

I want to have the courage to equip myself, every day, against whatever the day might bring. I want to prove my heart now, while there’s time, so it is ready when duty calls. And I want to be ready so I don’t miss a moment of this beautiful life I’ve been given.

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For further reading:

John 14:27; Romans 8:15 & 31; II Corinthians 4:7-11; Ephesians 6:10; Hebrews 13:5-6; I Peter 5:7

And one final note: Baptist upbringing aside, I am this close to getting a tattoo with “Courage, dear heart” and an albatross.

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