What does courage look like to you?
I think most of us have this idea that it's this BIG BRAVE THING that only a few attain...like diving into a frozen river to save someone...pulling someone out of a burning car...climbing that mile-high mountain...any good thing we normally don't do on a regular basis. Something bigger than ourselves.
Now I agree, all those things do take a superhuman effort to accomplish. I like to think I could do a BIG BRAVE THING if necessary. So far I haven't been called to one, unless it was giving birth. I loved the end result but I sure hated the process. But hey, I wasn't given a choice to NOT do it, so I'm not sure that counts.
You see, the hard part for me isn't the big things...true confession...it's the courage to keep-on-keeping-on...one day at a time...sometimes one hour at a time...in the little things...when life seems so hard and I want to quit.
I shall call that an act of Everyday Courage.
And to me, that's a much bigger challenge.
You see, I struggle with depression. I come from a long line of people with anxiety disorders who found it easier to live life through self-medicating in one form or another. The thing about self-medicating? It may appear to make life more bearable for the person doing it, but it's definitely not beneficial to the others around them. They don't get the benefit of numbing or dulling the pain...all they get is fear and the need to somehow try and make it all better.
I cannot remember living without fear...my elementary school teachers called me a 'worry wart". I have no idea how this spirit entered my life...perhaps it is genetic or hereditary or learned. All I knew was that there was so much wrong and so much evil to worry about...hiding under a desk during the Cuban Missile Crisis...Kennedy's assassination...the Vietnam War...Silent Spring. Or how to keep a cat from being run over or a dog from being hit on the highway. Could I have done anything about any of those things as a child? No. But neither did anyone tell me HOW to deal with all those fears. So, I taught myself to be in control of all I could to keep myself safe.
So here I am, 50 years later, still struggling to feel safe. God knows that now there are infinitely more things to be afraid of, courtesy of the world-wide-web and social media. The world has not become safer or less scary.
This past week I really had to fight to keep on going. Picture a rolling, roiling dark storm cloud coming towards you...surrounding you, smothering you, enveloping you. That's what depression is like to me. My senses are alert to its coming and all I want to do is hide. I have begged and pleaded with God for years to take this away...to show me the way through it and out of it. And maybe He will or maybe He won't. Depression may be the thorn in my flesh that He may never deliver me from. There may only be grace. And that will have to be enough.
Do I think about checking out? Sometimes...when I am ever so tired and the journey seems too long. Until I remember the suicide of someone I dearly loved and the crushing pain it brought on. And the hardest part was never knowing why she couldn't go on. But I realize now that she may have saved my life...for she taught me that though the pain would end for me, it would never end for those I love. So no, checking out is not an option.
The question is, what does it take to keep-on-keeping-on during times of darkness? When something bigger than you makes it hard to breathe and you've lost your direction and the light forward is dimming?
Everyday Courage. Plain old Everyday Courage. To me it looks like...
* The grace to just wake up and get out of bed. Maybe open the curtains. Or not.
* Being willing to be fragile, real, and honest...open to someone safe, someone who will enter your brokenness and not ask nor expect anything from you.
* Doing the next thing. Brush your teeth? Feed the dog? Put dishes in the sink? Baby steps. Don't let fear paralyze you.
* Asking for help. Wearing a mask only makes the journey lonelier and longer.
* Knowing what you need. And doing it. Self-care is not selfish.
How are you living out Everyday Courage? What does it look like to you?
We all have fears. We all struggle with something. We all need help. You may not struggle with depression like me. Perhaps you've been afraid or hurt or living life on the edges because it's safer that way. Perhaps Everyday Courage looks to you like...
* Speaking the truth in love. Yes, you may be rejected but that's not the point. Stepping in to something difficult takes courage and though the outcome can't be controlled, you will have taken the first step to freedom.
* Writing a letter, making a phone call, reaching out...finally...doing something long overdue because it's the right thing to do. And God always honors the right thing.
* Making a good choice...letting go of something harmful...embracing a new beginning. Walking in a new, healthy direction is an amazingly good and brave thing!
Everyday we are given opportunities over and over again to be courageous...to choose the right thing...do the right thing. Trumpets may not sound and banners may not wave, but our souls need it. And they are of greater value than any trumpet or banner.
I love that life is a journey...that there are so many truths to learn, and ways to apply them along the way. Have you ever gone on a perfect journey? I haven't! With every trip I have taken there are necessary stops and what seem like unnecessary breakdowns, detours and changes of plans, conflict and times of bliss. To expect it to go perfectly is to be delusional. The same with life...day after day after day, for however long God gives us, there are of thousands of opportunities to grow in Everyday Courage.
I pray this post is an encouragement to you. Being this open and transparent is scary to me. I could be fearful and expect rejection, mockery, or dismissal. Or, I can believe that I will be accepted, loved, and understood. I choose to believe the second option. I choose Everyday Courage.
'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Joshua 1:9
We can do it!