Galloping down the dusty street of a dilapidated western town, John Wayne sweeps in forcefully taking command of the chaos. The hero with the shiny badge saves the day. Every time. He does so with ease, confidence, and grace. Even though I was secretly wishing my dad would turn the channel to something a little more Hallmark-ish, I would watch. We are familiar with this scene. The kind that makes courage look simple, glamorous, tough, and easy.
Courage looks this way in my mind. I assume courageous people feel as confident as their actions appear. As I was sitting in my counselor’s office recently, he looked at me, his eyes filling with tears, and asked me, “Do you realize how courageous you are in your life and in the decisions you make?” UM. LET ME THINK. NO. I wept and responded, “Courageous people do the hard thing with a better attitude.” I may do the hard thing, but my heart’s response and my attitude pales in comparison. My counselor suggested that the hard thing doesn’t have to feel good nor does it have to make me happy in order to be courage. Courage and PollyAnna aren’t required to be BFFs.
God tells us in Revelation 3:7: "When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say." When we obey God, and act upon hearing His still, small voice, we do not have to like His choice of door. It is great if we do, and it is OK if we don’t. He does not ask us to like it, he asks us to LISTEN. Looking back on my teenage years, I remember plenty of times my parents forbade me to do something for various reasons. Liking their decision was not a perquisite to obedience, and I think that is an important distinction, especially in our journey as children of God. Courage may be doing the hard thing we despise, the thing that feels counterintuitive and unnatural in every way.
It is important to give courage permission to feel ugly. Courage often looks teary eyed and weepy. Courage often looks worn out, and why shouldn’t it? Courage can be doing the same thing day in and day out, sometimes without any positive reinforcements. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Taking his yoke upon us implies that we are still carrying our hard thing, but WHO we are carrying it with changes. He doesn’t say the hard thing goes away or all the emotional weight of the situation will dissipate like a magic trick. He simply says let me go there with you; Invite me along on your courageous path. Being courageous is essentially giving up control to unseen and strong hands that are better equipped for heavy pulling. Courage is not denying that the journey is plain hard, because it just is.
Courage, whether reinforced or not in worldly ways, is honored and known by the Father. There are plans of His for us that require our blind, teary eyed, weary courage. Courage requires foresight, a big picture perspective, when we can hardly see two feet in front of us. I think that’s what I would call hope. Hope is so courageous and so hard. It’s also, as Annie Downs, writes, “the one thing we can’t stand to lose.”
Holley Gerth writes, “You deserve to be applauded – for just digging in, doing what you do, keeping at it no matter what.” Know that God is a God who sees and is good. Keep digging in and keep being courageous, even when it requires waterproof mascara.