Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen it on kids trembling from head to toe after being bullied at school. Though shaking from the effects, they gather their gumption to relay what happened as best they can. What do they hope to gain? Some measure of understanding certainly. Why did that happen? What does it say about me? Where do I put it inside myself? Understanding can shed light on these. But understanding can’t give what they ultimately want. Something they want bad enough to risk being seen.
I’ve seen courage on a college student, working for a dream far, far out of reach. Obstacles like funds, relational drama, and long hours of work create a solitary existence. Each morning when their feet hit the floor, they battle themselves to keep going, another day, another try. What makes it worth it? What keeps them trying so hard?
I’ve seen courage in a marriage after years of strong words, self-serving efforts, withdrawn silences, cool tones, and loneliness for all. Yet, they catch a glimpse of something that could be… something better, truer, lighter, and warm with regard and respect. Something that looks like hope…and they move toward it. What gives them the energy to reach for hope when hope has seemed so far away?
Each time one of these reaches past their fear, past their obstacles, past their pain, they give in to the most powerful motivation of them all…desire. They want something more than what they have. Sometimes desire sits right next to desperation. Sometimes it stands on a high dive working up the courage to jump because friends are watching and egging them on. But almost all the time it refuses to agree that the price to pay for freedom and love is too high. And so, it reaches because it wants.
There is no courage where there is no desire. Isn’t it ironic we spend so much time suppressing and distorting the one thing that actually creates the courage to change when change is so desperately needed? But desire…that’s a tough one. So many of our desires go unaddressed, unfulfilled, and unrequited. We can bang our head against the wall of wanting only so many times. And so we shut down, distort or distract our deep, beautiful, and holy desires. We forget how absolutely intertwined we are with God and He with us. How his heart is ours and ours his. We forget and so we lack the courage to reach, by faith, beyond what we can see.
Augustine put it this way:
Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.
This is desire…the kind that makes courage. What is it you are reaching for today?