Author: Lynne Carter
Me writing on courage is much like asking the Cowardly Lion to go retrieve the broomstick from the Wicked Witch. Oh probably tucked somewhere beneath my uncertain pile of fur and fluff is an untapped fountain of courage, but ultimately I’m mostly afraid to look behind the curtain of the “great and powerful” for fear of what I might find there. I’m not exactly the leading expert on how to be courageous. In fact, I might be the likely candidate to shrink back in the face of fear and danger. Oh, and yes, that was me whimpering and tearing-up on my last cross-country flight when we hit bad turbulance. So, no, me and courage are not exactly what one would call tight buddies.
I have spent many of my years thinking courage was about tackling that awesome unsurmountable challenge that one would not let get the best of them. Or perhaps courage was the moment where one boldly steps out for a cause regardless of the danger or costs to them. And of course courage according to our tv’s and movie screens is the moment where the handsome dude saves an individual from peril and ultimate doom mindless of his own possible harm and detriment. All of these are certainly courageous acts, but I don’t think in our ordinary daily untelevised lives we have to define courage in such death-defying ways.
I’ve shared this story many times, but I’m going to share it again. In the early years of our church I was on a mission trip to Nicaragua. It was the first time our church had sent a group off to a destination where we had never been before. None of us had any idea what to expect. And Spanish?-not so much! When our group of 20+ participants began checking in at the airport we were informed that there was a problem with some of the tickets and that only 12 of us could actually go that day. The rest of the group would hopefully join in the next day or so. Wow, what a way to start off a trip. So we each sat there and waited for our names to be called to see if we were going to be one of the 12 sent to to this far away, unknown land. And then my name rang out! Yes, I was to be one of the twelve. Until that moment I had seen myself as a “willing” church-lady who felt able to lend a hand to a group who were relying on the assistance of others after being hit with a hurricane. Sure, I was willing to help. But now that magic, Biblical number of 12 was suddenly attached to this vagabond group of “helpers” and suddenly I felt like I was being chosen! I was actually being SENT! I went from being “willing” to “apprenhensive”. Yikes, what happened? Initially, I had stepped out with the mindset that likely anything I had to offer would be of some help to these desparate individuals. With the number “12” designated to our group, I now felt like a “called disciple”. I felt the weight of God’s expectations and responsibility. I now felt like I had to march forward boldly carrying the banner of God regardless of what I might encounter in this unknown land. Uh-oh! Any courage I might have had just shrank into nothingness. My willingness turned to uncertainty and my excited anticipation turned to dread. I became the Cowardly Lion. Internally I worked myself up pretty good and wanted only to run my tail through my chattering teeth.
So now that we had become the “Blessed Twelve”, you’re possibly waiting to hear what big event happened to this exclusive, hand-chosen group after we set off into the unknown. Well, after reluctantly saying yes to being a “Twelver”, anti-climatically… nothing! Absolutely nothing. We got to our destination, familiarized ourselves with our surroundings and our Nicaraguan leaders and then met up with the second half of our group the next day. God safely delivered all of us, and we worked hard to help create a new library for this devastated community.
So why share this story? I’ve learned in this situation and in other scenarios since, that courage is not always found in the big, mighty acts that we see in the headlines or on our tv screens. For many of our day to day events, courage is the ability to either take the first step or possibly a next step. Sometimes they are the wee bitty baby steps that we take that start the gears and cogs into what can become even bigger actions. Without the courage to say yes to the smallest step forward, we prevent the bigger action from happening further down the line. Maybe we can’t imagine what will happen if we initiate the action, but courage gives us the power to push the start button and then the strength to deal with the action/reaction that comes with this forward movement. Once in motion the possibilities become real. Energy builds. With momentum more possibilities open and with this movement real things happen. Results. Change. Difference-making! It all comes alive once courage nudges you to push go. Sometimes the most courageous moments are when we find the strength to just say yes or know the time to say no. Courage can fly silently under the radar, but to the individual who relies on God’s courage, she will rise with that undeniable feeling of internal combustion knowing God’s train just pushed a little further down the track because one little act of courage put the train in motion.
There are multitudes of stories in the Bible that inspire us with acts of courage both big and small, but perhaps the story that has impacted us the most tells of one young girl who had the courage to say yes.
30 The angel told her,
“Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor[a] with God.
31 You will become pregnant, give birth to a son,
and name him Jesus.
32 He will be a great man
and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his ancestor David.
33 Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever,
and his kingdom will never end.” …
Then came the most courageous response.
38 Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”
The courageous act of simply saying yes I am your servant brought us a savior. Small and simple and yet the courageous “yes” totally changed the world. Trusting in God and His plan gives flight to courage and will always make a guided pathway to saying a courageous yes.
One little-tiny, barely-courageous yes landed me on a flight to Nicaragua. With my little tiny yes and the myriad of other little tiny yeses, we let courage nudge us into building a library. Just imagine what God could build with your courage.