Let It Out

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Courageous, brave, bold, and strong – it seems most people do not characterize themselves this way.  I suppose it makes some kind of sense in our minds as to why this is: Every one of us can readily recall a time or several events in which we wilted with fear; did not speak up; or, were not assertive.  The many conversations we will never have that take place in our heads are testament to our supposed withdrawal in the face of adversity.  In other words, we have far too many discussions with ourselves of how something should have gone and way too many brave retorts for someone whom we really have no intention of saying those words toward.

If this all sounds like the convoluted musings of a wimpy kid, that’s not far off the mark.  When we get bullied, even as adults, it can be easy to wilt, or to take it, or to simply find a way to avoid the bully.  With some folks, we even create elaborate internal reasons why it’s our fault someone is upset with us.  In such times, bravery and courage seem a long way from our true selves.

Faced with a daunting task at work, at home, or at school, we may wonder if we really have the internal stuff to pull it off.  We feel that maybe someone else would be better suited to do it.  What’s more, given a set diagnosis with some disease looks a whole lot like a circumstance that is way above our emotional pay grade.  It isn’t only the added hard situations of life that make us look fearful; it is the crippling losses that can leave us feeling anything but strong and brave.

Yet, what if I told you that you are, indeed, brave, strong, and confident?  What if I insisted that courage resides within you, even if you yourself cannot see it right now?  And, what if I told you that bravery isn’t something you must go on a quest to find, but that it’s been in you all along?  If so, you only need to let it out.

You intuitively know I’m on to something here.  After all, the most common exhortation and assurance in the entirety of Holy Scripture is to not be afraid because God is with us….

“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, NIV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

“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;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV)

Believe it, or not, the Bible tells us 365 times to not be afraid.  Maybe that’s not a coincidence that we can quote a verse every day of the year about our own fearfulness in the face of so much of life’s cruel junk.

Yet, the tack I want you to take in the great litany of fear we daily face is that bravery is not something that is so much commanded as it is a calling forth of something which is already within you.

Parker Palmer

Now, before you go thinking I’m some New Age huckster, hear me out.  Right from the beginning of the world, in God’s creative activity, the LORD did it all by calling forth from within himself.  What I mean is this: God did not simply command everything into being; instead, he said, “Let there be…”  God let out what was already there in his very Being.  It was almost as if God belched-out from the great depth of his Being and let out all this wondrous creation.

I also find it interesting that when it comes to fear and bravery God does not so much command us to be courageous, as he wants us to draw from the great reservoir within.  That is, he has already created us strong, as creatures in his image.  We just need to get in touch with what is already there.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” said Jesus to his disciples because he knew his followers had it in them to walk in his way without fear (John 14:6, NRSV).  “Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful,” said God to the prophet Jeremiah in the face of a terrible destruction that was about to unfold against Jerusalem because the LORD knew that his servant could face what was going to happen (Jeremiah 51:46, ESV).

When it comes to genuine Christian spirituality, we can act with boldness because Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation.  He is the One which enables us to draw from the deep well of courage….

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT).

When I say that you are brave, you are strong, you are good – those are not words meant to make you believe something which may or may not be true, as if I were trying to convince you to take some panacea to feel better.  No, I say it because it is true.  You really can face the immense mountain in front of you and climb it.  You can actually surmount the adversity you are in the middle of – not because of some words I say, but because you were created for courage.

So, how do you let out the bravery and let the boldness shine?  That seems to be the million dollar question.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you already know the answer to this.  Yes, you possess the answers to your own questions.  You have all the knowledge you need to face your problems.  So, the real question is this:

Will you let your bravery come out to play, or will you keep it hidden beneath layers of insecurity?

It’s a whole lot easier to let me tell you what to do than to draw from what you already know deep down how to handle that troublesome something.  So, I’m not going to give you a simple three-step process out of fear and into courage because you already have been endowed with the process.  This certainly isn’t a sexy way to end a blog post, but it just might be the most effective and lasting.

The Need for Courage

 
 
People are not naturally courageous.  Ever since the fall of humanity, none of us has to work at being afraid – but we all have to work at being brave and having the courage to face our fears.  Sometimes we adults think we have to teach kids not to fear because we believe they are afraid of the dark, high places, and monsters in the closet.  But I think most of that is our own adult fear projected on kids.  Actually, I think it is the other way around.  Some of the bravest folks I have ever known are children.  They do not understand near as much as we adults do, yet they conquer their fears every day by facing the world with courage.  If you were to go to any children’s hospital today, I believe you would be amazed at the kind of courage you would find amongst kids.  It seems to me that adults have a whole lot to learn about being brave because:
 
We have become far too sophisticated in hiding our fears and avoiding courage.
 
            This is why the most repeated exhortation is all of Holy Scripture is to not be afraid.  We all need courage to live life in the way that God wants it to be lived.  Jesus had to remind his disciples to not be afraid; and, God the Father himself had to exhort the fearful followers of Jesus to have the courage to listen (Matthew 17:1-7).  We all need courage to listen well to God the Father; to live by the words and ways of God the Son; and, to follow God the Holy Spirit wherever he prompts us to go.
 
We need the courage to love people without needing their kudos (John 2:23-25). 
 
Jesus did not get carried away with his own press.  Whether people responded to him by the hundreds, or whether they refused him altogether and tried to throw him off a cliff, Jesus was consistently always the same.  He did not need people’s response or the lack of it to do his mission on this earth.  He continually loved people and did not do things in order to get them to love him in return, like insecure and fearful people do.
 
            The most read book in my library is The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  It was written five-hundred years ago by a Dutch priest who was training others in the ministry of Christ.  The reason I keep coming back to that book again and again is that Thomas understood the need for the courage to love the unlovely.  He understood that perfect love casts out fear.
 
            This is what Thomas had to say about loving others:  “We should not only love our brothers and sisters, but also not consider ourselves better than them.  Instead, we should show compassion and acceptance to others.  We want to have others strictly reprimanded for their offenses, but we will not be reprimanded ourselves.  We are inclined to think the other person has too much freedom, but we ourselves will not put up with any restraint to our freedom.  There must be rules for everyone else, but we must be given free rein.  It is seldom that we consider our neighbor equally with ourselves. Yet:
 
 If everyone was perfect, what would we have to endure for the love of God?
 
            Thomas is always good for a solid spiritual slap to the sinful flesh.  Hear him again:  “Look at yourself and see how far you are from real love and humility.  It is of no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people, for they are always well liked.  And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us….  However, in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for:
 
We cannot live in this world without adversity. 
 
Those who can suffer well will enjoy the most peace, for such persons are brave, courageous, not afraid of pain, have Christ as their friend, and heaven as their reward.”
 
            Imagine yourself, fully aware of the mission and vision God has placed in your heart to advance his kingdom in this world, yet held hostage to phobias, irrational worries, and destructive fears of failure, harm, or rejection.
 

 

If you and your church don’t fulfill the mission God assigned to you, who will?