“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the
hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade
the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one
human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service
only the wounded soldiers can serve.”
Having clarity doesn’t always translate to courage. Clarity is a catalyst for courage-- but we’ll get to that. Courage is a word we throw out often and misrepresent almost as much as we throw it out. Interestingly enough, we can't walk courageously if we don’t know what courage looks like. I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we have an inadequate definition and view of courage is because we have an inadequate definition and view of fear.
Fundamentally, we view fear negatively-- and because of that we try to suppress or dismiss it altogether. Suppressing or dismissing fear doesn’t do away with it; it just causes it to be expressed in unhealthy ways. Maybe you’re super controlling and you’ve masked your fear with a desire for predictability. Maybe you’re irritable and you lash out periodically, masking your fear with anger or frustration. Maybe you’re full of anxiety and the past, present, and future drowns out joy and the sweetness of life because you’re tying to prevent past mistakes from invading your present and “ruining” your future. Or maybe the sweetness is drowned out because you’re trying to relive past successes in the present to “ensure” your future.
Dismiss it or suppress it if you want, but it’s coming out in some way or another. Because we don’t deal with our emotions by starting with suppression, we start by embracing that we actually feel the way we feel. Though fear is one of those emotions we view negatively and rush to suppress or dismiss, there is such a thing as healthy fear, and fear has the opportunity to produce faith if we let it and courage is a fruit of faith. We can’t walk courageously in calling unless we embrace there are some things that cause us to be afraid…
The most fearful I’ve been in my entire life was 2 years and a half years ago. I was battling depression, wrestling with purpose, trying to figure out what being a good father and husband looked like (not just on paper), and scared out of my mind. That fear came out as sarcasm, withdrawing emotionally from relationships, working harder, and trying to be overly charming so that people wouldn’t notice what was wrong (I know that's hard to believe… me try to be charming…).
Despite all of that, I knew there was a fear that ran deep into my soul. That fear was rooted in my disbelief that God was who he said he was and that he really cared about my family and me. My heart was fragile and I was afraid I would wake up one day and forsake the God who I proclaimed as King over creation and my soul. I saw the same hands that fashioned galaxies and formed humanity, allowed me to be wounded deeply and I was afraid that they weren’t capable of healing, and that the owner of those hands wasn’t worth giving myself for. If you’ve ever felt or thought along those lines, please know you’re not alone. Before I get into essay/sermon/private journal mode, let me start to land the plane on some thoughts that I think may be beneficial:
1. I had to embrace how I felt and the fear that was present. Embracing it put a face and a name to what was hindering my intimacy in relationships and effectiveness in life. I wasn’t fighting against some secret enemy, I was warring with my soul and the very tangible fear present there.
2. Biblical courage is anchored in the presence of God. God’s presence reminds us of who he is, full of compassion, love, wisdom, purpose, and power! So for me the very person and place I was fearful of was the very person and place I had to run to. There are many verses in the Bible that remind us of the confidence we can find in God's presence, such as:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
3. God's presence is felt most, through His word (the Bible), through His people (community), His Spirit (in prayer), and His purposes (on mission/serving). Here are a couple of sermon resources that may help: Upside Down and EN-Couraged.
Community is the x-factor, because while all of those environments or conduits of the presence of God seemingly fluctuate with fear, community is the component that depends the least on you. God’s people can come alongside you and help you fight when fear is crippling.
The quote at the beginning of this post was shared with me when fear was ruling. It reminded me that wounded soldiers fight with dependence on the one who enlisted them, Jesus. Those words spoken to my soul from God’s people invigorated me to run towards God and beg him to be with me---to which He replied and reminded me He never left.
4. Calling is both a journey and a destination. A lot of times we get bogged down in either the destination or the journey, but embracing both dynamics helps us walk courageously. Embracing the destination reminds us that there’s an endgame we can be confident in, one that doesn’t rest on us. Embracing the journey reminds us that there’s a process we work and live in that’s much bigger than us. Both help bring and reinforce clarity.
There’s no courage button that zaps you with emotions and energy to do what you feel called to. Walking courageously is a daily decision and a daily fight but life in a cell wasn’t/isn’t God’s intent. When calling becomes a cage that traps us in a cycle of work, choosing courage frees us to live purposefully and passionately, knowing the work doesn’t rest on me and the natural fear we all feel isn’t something to be dismissed but a door to have courage lead us to dependence.