Friday, December 20, 2013

True Grit

"Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." -John Wayne

I am a courageous person.  Or at least I strive to be.  Now don't go mistaking being courageous for being fearless- watch a spider walk into the room and you will very quickly see just how NOT fearless I am.  But courage is another thing.  Courage is the ability to do right even in the face of one's fears.  And that is something I place great value in.

All my life bravery has been a trademark I have looked for in others.  Whether in myself, or in movie characters I sought to identify with, or heroes I wanted to follow.  In Jr. High and High school I played a lot of sports- my two favorites were volleyball and lacrosse.  Volleyball was pure enjoyment but lacrosse- that was pure aggression.  I loved being able to combine skill and aggression on the field in a competitive way.  Mix that with the fact that I was the resident "Christian girl" at my school and you have a strange mix...I had to be brave.  I made it a point to be firm in who I was and to always stand up for others; for what was right.  That is not always the most popular thing to do and I often stood out.  And whether because I am a Navy man's daughter or not I don't know, but right up until my last year of high school I had planned to join the military.  I wanted to be brave.

Even as my life played out, courage was always a trait I valued highly.  Many years ago I was working as a bank teller and shortly before we closed for the night a man came bursting through the doors screaming "This is a robbery!".  He immediately came to my window, threw a bag at me and demanded I fill it.  In moments like that, times stands still.  It all happened in the space of a few seconds- me pressing the silent alarm, filling his bag with the marked money, him being chased out- but to me it took hours.  I can clearly recall each action I took and the actions of those around me.  I had been mentally prepared for a moment like that my whole life- my father always taught me that in life threatening situations the number one cause of death is not the immediate danger at hand- but rather panic.  Panic causes us to act irrationally and can potentially cause us to make mistakes that will cost us our lives.  Because of what my dad always said, I was able to keep my adrenaline under control- and it allowed me to keep calm and do what needed to be done...and when the robber was chased out of the building, it gave me the presence of mind to grab my assistant manager and force him to get up and lock the bank door- because my assistant manager was in a state of shock and was not moving.  Fear can be immobilizing...which is why I so strongly value the ability to rise up and even in the face of your fears be able to stand up and act accordingly.  Scared or not.

Some people take this idea and think that bravery means to walk around gun-toting and muscle bearing- as if bravery is in the body.  Bravery is a state of mind.  Courage is a matter of the heart, not the head.  Look at some of my favorite movies: Braveheart, Troy, Gladiator, King Arthur- all of the main, heroic men of these movies have more in common then just their brute strength.  Even the villains in these movies were strong. No- they were more than just strong.  They were courageous.  They fought and died for something HONORABLE.  They fought and died for a people and for purpose that they felt were worthy of their strength and even their lives.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has another great example of this, one that women can maybe relate to.  There are two strong women figures in this trilogy to look at: Arwen and Eyowyn.  Eyowyn is of royal blood and wants so badly to break free from the palace walls- to prove her bravery.  She is tired of the evil around her and tired of watching the men she loves die fighting...she wants a piece of the action.  She wants a chance to fight evil as well.  It is a noble desire and yes, she is brave...but she is also immature in her bravery.  She disguises herself as a soldier and marches off to battle and fights well.  But through the whole movie she never really understands her place- never really knows when to fight and when to stand down.  When to draw arms, and when to support her loved ones.  She is lost- has unbridled passion.  Then there is Arwen- also a woman of nobility.  Arwen also wages war against evil- sometimes with her heart and sometimes with the fierceness of her sword, depending on which was necessary.  Sometimes she needed to physically fight in battle, and other times she needed to stand down and fight the battle in other ways- ways of the heart.  But she had wisely learned when to spot the difference.

That is real courage.  Knowing the difference between bravery and foolishness.  Knowing when we just want to pick a fight and when we truly want the best outcome for all.  That is why following Jesus has been the most amazing and brave pursuit of my life.  It calls me to do things I would not ordinarily want or even be able to do.  I want to pick up arms and fight the injustices of this world- yet God repeatedly beckons me to lay down my passion and instead to move in gentleness.  Imagine that.

I have chosen to follow a road that says if you want to be first, you have to be last.  If you want to lead, you have to follow.  If you want to truly love, then you must truly serve.  To take, you must give.  To comfort, you must mourn.  To be free, you must forgive.  Jesus is the most courageous, brave person I have ever, EVER had the privilege of following.  It takes zero willpower to fight back when attacked- but to turn the other cheek?  That piece of mastery I am still learning.

As I was writing this post it occurred to me that this would be my last post before also occurred to me that there is nothing more brave, nothing more courageous than what Jesus did by being born.  Nothing more courageous than coming unarmed as a helpless baby to a world that wanted nothing more than to kill Him.  The world expected to be saved through the bravery of a Warrior King but instead, the bravest act known to humanity came down in the form of a baby some two thousand years ago.  And even so, He lived a life of example continually urging us to follow that example of true bravery and learn to put others first.  To lead by following.  To love by serving.

I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas this year.  But I also beg you not to forget the many, many lessons born in that room so many years ago.  As the new year approaches, take the time to ask yourself if you are brave.  Take the time to learn what that really even means.

I dare you.

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." C.S. Lewis

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