You read quotes about courage a lot. I'm a Pinterest fanatic (My name is Sara, and I'm addicted to Pinterest), and on the vast terror that is the Internet, you see many quotes about courage. The majority of them are pithy, or attributed to someone who never said them. What I've found is that they never say much. They talk about trying again tomorrow, about being strong, all these things, but none of them have ever rung true in my heart. They're nice things to say, but there is no substance to them. They are just words with little meaning. A few days ago I finished Annie Downs' awesome book Let's All Be Brave, which I wrote about in my post Books That Inspire Me. In this book, Annie tells a lot of life stories. At one point, she picked up her entire life in small-town Georgia and moved to freaking Nashville. Like, what. Oh my gosh. She felt God tapping on her shoulder, telling her to move to Nashville, so she went. After she had established a community there, she felt moved to go to Scotland. So she went to Scotland and lived there for a time. She established a group of her people there, too, but then she felt the gentle nudge to go back to Nashville. So, naturally, she went.
I don't know about you, but that feels insane. She thought so, too. When she moved from her hometown to Nashville, she absolutely positively did not want to go. It was as if she went kicking and screaming, and I can't say that I blame her. In fact, I would be the same way. Pick up and leave everything I've ever known, leave the life I've built, because I feel like God has told me to? I love Jesus, but that's asking something very hard, whether you love Him or not. That's asking for commitment. That's asking for insanity.
It's asking for courage.
I just finished reading the book of Acts this morning. It reads like an adventure novel. It's awesome. Paul went through so much, y'all. For real. He was beaten, he was imprisoned, he had to flee for his life multiple times, he was almost stoned a couple of times. He was shipwrecked, placed on trial unjustly, bitten by a snake -- you name it, it probably happened to him. But Paul never stopped doing what he was doing. No matter how many times his life was threatened, he never stopped doing the thing that God had made him to do. A lot of people might have called it in: "This is threatening my life in about a thousand ways? Maybe I should quit." No. That's not Paul.
And if I'm being honest with you (which I should be)? It's not you, either.
I know that at least one person is looking at this post going, "Um, Sara? I'm scared of a lot of things." Hey, me too. I'm freaked out by just about anything that seems remotely threatening -- rollercoasters, spiders, public humiliation. If those are the things that scare me, imagine what I would be like in the face of death or moving to a different city. Hello, quivering puddle of humanity on the floor. I remember telling my GC at the beginning of this year that I didn't think I was a bold person, but I wished I was. Don't we all wish we were at some point? We see people who are doing brave things or living bold lives, and we wish we could be like that. We wish we were bold and brave. We wish we were courageous.
Reading Acts and Annie's book has shown me a lot about courage. Not necessarily what it looks like -- courage manifests itself in a lot of different ways. It looks different in different situations for different people. Me doing the brave thing looks different than my mom or my best friends or my professors or people around the world doing the brave thing. But these two brave people, Paul and Annie, have shown me that as much as I've believed otherwise, I am already courageous.
With a new identity in Christ, we are the recipients of so many countless blessings. But He's very sneaky about them sometimes -- we don't always know that we have them. Jesus gently places courage in our hearts -- in Emily Freeman's words, in the place where our spirit is joined with the Spirit of God. It is there that we experience courage. But it doesn't come from us -- it comes from Him.
The thing about courage is that we look at those who have it and think that they have done the impossible. That's what courage enables you to do: impossible things, insurmountable things. In the midst of all the chaos and the terror that is so great you could throw up, the Spirit of God whispers quietly in your ear the most beautiful words: I am here. You are safe with Me.
What a promise.
Somehow, some way, God in His ultimate power does in you and through you what you could not do for yourself. I have looked back on my brave moments and thought, "Who the crap was that acting? Because it wasn't me. I could never have done that." Well, no, past self, you couldn't have. It is God that has done this for me. It is God that does this for you on a daily basis. He whispers words of reassurance and power into your little heart, and then? He shows up. Mightily. It may not always look like much to the world around you, but you know better. It was huge, because it was impossible and you didn't see how you could ever do it. But oh, look at what He has done!
Courage comes from a place that is so deep you can hardly find its source. Jesus once compared the Spirit of God to the wind, saying, "You don't know where it comes from, or where it is going." We have no idea how God does this with our little selves, but He does it. We know whence our courage comes, and it comes when we need it.
Bravery isn't about staring fear down and pretending you don't feel fear. By all means, acknowledge the fear voices. It's okay to say, "I'm freaking terrified." Because it's in those moments that God shows up. He shows up when we know good and well that we just can't. And then? He does. He always, always does.
In the words of the incomparable C.S. Lewis: Courage, dear heart.