Certain words and phrases in our 21st Century contemporary culture ring strange in our ears next to our commonly spoken jargon.
Yet because a specific word or characteristic sounds unfamiliar to us, it does not mean it is insignificant in our modern times, although it may not feel relevant to the way we live now.
For example, how often would you hear a rugby superstar labelled as 'courageous', or your boss high-fiving you after a meeting saying 'Well done faithful employee – you acted courageously in negotiating that deal right there'?
It's as if there are some traits—like being courageous—that belong to a different era. An era of extremes, a wrong choice that could be the difference between life and death.
And we read about stories of courage throughout the Bible; Esther entered the King's royal chamber without permission, knowing it would likely lead to certain death—instead, her courage stopped mass genocide.
Rahab knew hiding the Israelite spies at home was a huge risk, but she did it anyway and Jericho was defeated.
Even Jonah, after his watery three days in the whale, had to make a courageous decision to turn back and go to the city of Nineveh.
And Zacchaeus who climbed the tree to see Jesus—he would have been ridiculed and scorned as he hauled his frame up that tree, but the desire to Jesus was more than his circumstances.
Facing the unknown
In under two weeks' time, having spent nearly six years in New Zealand, away from home in England, I'm heading off overseas for a California, selling most of my possessions... And although I have an idea of where I'll head after that—the game plan stays open.
My decision came out of the blue for most of my friends and family, and many told me that I had a lot of courage choosing to leave an amazing life in New Zealand for the unknown (I'm sure I also heard the question in there about having a mid-life crisis?!).
The concept of my decision being one of courage took me by surprise. Was I actually just making a stupid decision, chucking my hard-saved money into the wind, with my dream of ever owning my own home evaporating before me?
Or was it more a matter of itchy feet and just another way of maintaining a Peter Pan lifestyle?
What is courage?
Sometimes courage can feel an abstract concept, devoid from any sense of modern society: World War I soldiers in the trenches, Christians in the Middle East refusing to denounce their faith.
Having courage is described as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain without fear. Yet, I tend to agree with Joyce Meyer when she says, 'Courage is not the absence of fear, it's pressing forward in the face of fear'.
And as Brené Brown says, 'When confronted with news of a stranger's unimaginable pain—a suicide, an overdose, a protest for justice and basic dignity—we have two choices: We can choose to respond from fear or we can choose courage.'
So what if courage wasn't about what the set of circumstances was, but the way we responded to the circumstance?
God was showing me that I could choose to be brave. While I'd like to take credit for that bravery, really all I did was choose to start praying that God would make me brave and give me the courage to step into the unknown (that I didn't have). I knew that my desires and fears would always take precedence over the crazy adventures that God had for me.
I'd like to suggest that anyone can have courage—Jesus tells us that we can ask for anything from the Father through him. Have you ever thought to pray for courage – not just in a specific situation but to have it as a characteristic in your life?
Courage exists when we have something to lose. Doubt tries to sabotage courage but God gives us the ability to hope for more, and the best. And he gives us the faith to believe that!
When I asked a handful of friends about what it meant to have courage, doing what was right and standing up for what you believed—even when it was really hard to do or you had to do it alone—was the overwhelming response. As Brené Brown says, 'Courage means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.'
Brené continues: 'Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." ... Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as "ordinary courage".'*
We will have fear but we are not to be overcome by it: God tells us we won't be alone when we step out: '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.' (Joshua chapter 1, verse 9)
So I say, bring on that adventure, with an open mind, an open heart and a big prayer for courage along the way!
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html