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Imagining Courage vs. Living It

Imagining Courage vs. Living It

When we’re talking about courage the subject of fear so often comes up, and often as some kind of opposing emotion to courage – as if we cannot be both at once. 

I think there’s a vision of courage that we bring from childhood into adulthood that isn’t terribly helpful – the childhood view of adults who seem endlessly competent and able to deal with every situation – that we find, when we are ourselves adults, to look terribly different from who we find ourselves to be. 

That has been one of the most interesting realizations of motherhood for me. As a child I have such vivid memories of how endlessly self-assured my parents seemed. I trusted them implicitly and it was as if there was absolutely no situation that arose in the first decade of my life that they were not completely equal to. 

College students seem much the same to me as well, since I had the privilege of growing up more or less on campus at Purdue University, where I came to know and love so many wonderful young women who were my earliest role models. They seem to know everything that they could need to know – how to dress, how to do their make up, how to get into an excellent school like Purdue. 

I lived in anticipation of the day that I would become like them, or become like my mother, and just know what to do all the time. Imagine my deep disappointment when I reached college myself only to discover that I still felt like I was still about 6 1/2. I had no idea what the heck I was doing and soon realized that no one else did either. And yet when I interacted with children I saw that same adoration that I had had myself. I came to realize for the first time that I was no different than the college girls I had adored as a child, and we were all of us just figuring it out as we went along. 

Talking to my mom about motherhood since having my own children I’m coming to see how many times she was doing the exact same thing I do on a daily basis – completely making it up as I go along.

As we grow we began to see the separation between our childhood view of things and the way things really are, but I don’t know if everyone’s viewpoint of courage grows in quite the same way. I think that our childhood ideal of courage is one of those things that kind of stubbornly sticks around, setting up very high bars for ourselves in terms of what we should feel prior to being brave. 

Sure, we intellectually embrace the idea that you can be both afraid and courageous and throw around terms like “do it scared“ and “live bravely“, but that’s one of those things where I feel like there is a gap between what we say and what we feel to be true.

So what’s to be done about this? 

I feel like my experience of motherhood gives me an insight into this. The day I brought my first child home from the hospital I was more overwhelmed and terrified than I have ever been on any other day in my entire life. But there was no escaping it. I was a mom now I needed to figure out how to be one. It was a part of my identity that was not going to change, but I need to figure out how to grow into it. 

And so it took doing mom things, day after day, our after hour, year after year, to begin to shape myself into the mother that I already was. 

I think it’s the same thing with courage. If being courageous is something that only happens incredibly rarely in our lives, if ever, I think we’re going to really struggle to let go of that youthful vision of what it should feel like to be courageous. 

But, on the other hand, if we create opportunities for courage on a regular basis, then we can become more and more the courageous person we were created to be – the courageous person God already placed inside us.

The Birthright of Courage

The Birthright of Courage

What does it mean to live a courageous life? 

I think the minutiae depends on who you ask. It might look different to a soldier, a septuagenarian, a mother, and a child. But I think you would find commonalities in everything that they say, namely that courage lies in subjecting yourself to something larger than yourself for a better good then simply your own momentary comfort. 

Perhaps the soldier would tell stories of the battlefield facing fears that are hard to comprehend and brothers and sisters in arms laying down their lives for those they serve with. 

An old woman might speak about maintaining a marriage in the face of Alzheimer’s, memory loss, or dementia, continuing to care for a person who no longer remembers you. 

A mother might talk about setting unpopular boundaries with her kids and going through all the effort and work to maintain those boundaries despite how uncomfortable it is for her personally to do so, and all the times her kids remind her that other kids parents don’t have the same standards. 

And I think if you asked my five-year-old he would tell you that courage is protecting his little siblings from anyone that might harm them, putting their health and safety before his own, although perhaps not quite in those words.

There is a nobility in the courage that is our birthright as Christians, daughters and sons of a Messiah who truly was a warrior king but not in the way that anyone expected. Christ went into battle for us, battle against not simply the Romans, which would’ve been quite popular with Jews at his time, but with death itself. 

The harder, better road. 

We are baptized into the family of that warrior king and find ourselves deputized under his same mantle – not the mantle of worldly glory, but the mantle of the better, harder road. 

The mantle of servant hood. 

The mantle of self forgetfulness. 

The mantle of humility. 

The mantle of courage. 

This is our birthright. 

This is who we are. 

We are fighters on our knees, not seeking the glory of the arena, but the good of our sister who cannot fight for herself. 

We could not fight her own battle against death, so Jesus fought for us. 

And so in his stead we find ourselves called to fight the battles that we are able for those who are not – the marginalized, the unborn, the forgotten, and the helpless. This is one of the most powerful ways that we imitate our king and follower commander. 

This is how we are brave. 

This is how we serve.

I’d love to hear your stories about how YOU are brave right where you are. Just comment and let me know. I love to read your stories and learn how I can better pray for you.

A Brave, Modern, Christian Life

A Brave, Modern, Christian Life

Courage is trendy right now. 

Any secular decor store is full of plaques that say “be brave” or “live with courage.” And so often things that are immoral are pointed to as expressions of bravery simply because they have not been the norm in society before. 

But this is definitely not the real meaning of courage. 

Courage means doing what one ought to do, regardless of one’s feelings and the consequences that may come. 

It is not the absence of fear, nor is it foolhardiness that rushes into dangerous situations without a care. 

Courage is a concerted choice to do the right thing, even knowing that you may be mocked, ridiculed, ostracized, or even killed for your actions. It’s not a trendy, sentimental little thing. It’s the foundation of facing life like Christ, who spoke the truth in love no matter where he was even with the full knowledge that he would ultimately be killed for his efforts. 

When we need a strong example of bravery we need look no further than Christ.

Last month we talked about the courage needed to embrace Hope in the face of a culture that treats it with skepticism at best and hostility at worst. But this doesn’t just apply to Hope. There’s a whole range of Christian virtues that take a great deal of courage to live out in the modern world.

Christianity is countercultural right now, and therefore requires great courage to live. There’s a whole range of topics, from objective truth, to morality, to simple application of virtue, that we as Christians profess that make our culture extremely uncomfortable. 

We refuse to fit conveniently into the nice little box of relativism that they have made for us. 

We refuse to believe that truth is decided by majority vote. 

We refuse to “modernize” beliefs that are timeless as the God revealed them to us. 

And so we find ourselves squarely in the middle of a new kind of era in the church – one not necessarily marked by violence in the physical sense (at least in my country of the United States), but definitely violent attacks in the verbal and emotional sense. People appeal to emotion to make it seem as though Christianity is heartless, when nothing could be further from the truth. 

Christianity holds the heart of God, the fulfillment of all human desires. But unfortunately the truth that our culture embraces about things like weight loss or climbing the corporate ladder (that there is no quick and easy solution and you will have to go through the pain and dedication if you’re serious about it) the same culture refuses to embrace about spiritual health. We can’t simply do what we want without any consequences. Spiritual health flourishes in discipline and rightly ordered living, just as weight loss flourishes in discipline and rightly ordered diet and exercise. 

It takes courage to be a part of this culture without becoming representative of the culture. It takes courage to keep persevering in virtue when the people around you don’t see the point. It takes courage to stand in the gap and listen without letting the voices around you sway you from the truth.

And so you, fellow Christian women, I salute. We walk a hard but incredibly worthy the road. And I could not be happier to share the road with anyone else. 

We are in each other’s story because we need each other to continue to be brave.

With joy!

Jill

 

Sustaining Hope

Sustaining Hope

So many in our culture reject the idea of hope in a large part I think because they never want to be disappointed. Because who likes to be disappointed??

We’ve all had things that we hoped for (but really just wished for) that didn’t come to pass. Relationships, promotions, opportunities, healings. In our mind our relationship with all of those things was defined by hope, but it was not the kind of hope that we’re talking about.

The kind of hope that we are talking about cannot disappoint us, though it may take our entire lives – even past this life and into the next – for those hopes to come to fruition. That’s a long time to wait. That’s a long time to keep nurturing hope with what seems like very little feedback to maintain it. 

But that’s how we approach hope from a human standpoint – something we have to sustain in the face of all kinds of things seeking to prove us wrong. 

But that’s not the reality. The reality is that hope is something we allow God to continue nurturing IN us. Said another way, it is not our hope that we are responsible for maintaining, but simply the relationship with God that feeds our hope. 

It reminds me of marriage. In a marriage, it’s not your job to make yourself continuously feel love for your spouse, but it is your job to maintain the relationship with with your spouse that creates fertile ground for love to keep blossoming. 

It seems terrifying to think that you have to keep a white-knuckled grip on love and if it ever slips away then it’s all over. Who can deal with that pressure? What about your bad days? Quickly the whole thing because Anxiety Fest 2020. But it’s much less daunting to simply remember that you need to talk to your spouse every day. Find out about their day. Maybe make a few small efforts to speak to them in their native love language. 

That we can do. 

That requires a little bit of us, and not more than we can handle. It’s the same way with God. We don’t have to keep a white knuckled grip on all these strands of faith and hope and all the other virtues, praying that we don’t let one slip out of our grasp, vanishing to the sea to never be recovered again. We simply have to talk to our beloved Father every day. Share our day with him. Let him love us and return right praise To him. 

Hope it’s a gift from God that he will continue to give as long as we keep the relationship with the Giver open.

With joy!

Jill

 

A Brave Hope

A Brave Hope

We talked last week about the wounds from human relationships that can make it hard to hope in God.

This week I want to talk about the radical bravery, the audacity, that it takes to hope in God. 

Something that so many in our culture would view as weakness, is actually an incredible sign of strength. Being able to embrace hope in Christ when all seems to be darkness is one of the most courageous things that we can do on a daily basis. 

It’s the kind of courage that draws us into the heart of God – the kind of bravery that God loves. As Paul says in Romans 5:5, hope will not disappoint us. All the people who hope in God will see their hopes fulfilled, whether here or in heaven. 

I have a great privilege of designing a bundle for Mother’s Day specifically created to give to those women who have lost their mothers. (All our Mother’s Day goodies came out last week and you can shop them right here.)  This was something I took very seriously and I spent a long time talking to women who have lost their mothers about what it was that would be helpful to say, knowing that nothing would ever take away even a little bit of the pain of a mother no longer with us on earth, but something that could, in the midst of the pain, point towards hope. The two pieces I created feature the words “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” and “United with heaven in prayer.”

I think a vital aspect of keeping hope alive in our hearts is a concerted belief that this is not all there is. Everything might not look fine here, ever. People reach the end of their lives in all kinds of states of illness, injustice, and violence. But we can maintain hope in the face of this because we believe that our hope is not for this world alone, but this world and the next. 

If everything is not made right here, which it typically is not, that is not the end of the story. It is a brave thing to hope in the face of death, and we can only do it because our Lord showed us how through his own death and resurrection. He invites us into that story, into the hope that that story will also be our own story when all is said and done.

With joy!

Jill

 

Who’s Afraid of a Little Bit of Hope?

Who’s Afraid of a Little Bit of Hope?

Have you ever met anyone (or maybe you recognize yourself in this a little bit) who is afraid of hope? 

Why would someone be afraid of hope? 

In the religious sense I struggle to understand this viewpoint because hoping in God has been such a constant in the experience of my life. But I do understand being skeptical of hope on the human side of things, which is so many peoples’ frame of reference in dealing with God. 

People have been let down by other people, and when God is simply viewed as the biggest person around (which He is not) then it makes sense that it would be hard to hope. 

I think this is the prevailing atheist viewpoint – that God is just like a big guy in the sky they could choose to help you out or not, love you or not, follow through or not, with all the capriciousness of the Greek and Roman pantheon, who exemplified the worst of humanity in so many ways. 

God is not trustworthy when we just make him another person. 

But God is not another person. 

He is outside of time, outside of the limitations of a created being. What he is he always is, because he is eternal and so he cannot, by definition, love us in one moment and reject us in another. His love, mercy, and justice are not swirled together with any kind of faults the way that our human versions of these virtues are. 

God is all good, all the time. 

But they remain many who are afraid of hoping in God because their hearts bear such wounds from hoping in humans. Their souls grow scaly and impenetrable and they begin to find it virtuous to not allow oneself to be hurt by hoping again. A shuttered heart seems like a safe heart. So they close up the blinds and post a sign like so many homes have to brush off solicitors: “No hope needed here. Move along.”

Sometimes it can feel like virtue to protect ourselves from truly hoping in God because then we cannot be hurt. It’s one of the many challenges of applying what we know from relationship with humans to our relationship with God, and one of the places where the comparison breaks down. 

There are absolutely times when it is vital to our health and safety to cease to hope in another person, but such a time will never come with God. He is incapable, by definition of who he is, of being unworthy of your trust. 

If he is ever worthy of your hope he is always worthy of your hope. 

With joy!

Jill