Hairy spiders scare me. As do nightmares, difficult conversations, and old cheese.

For my husband’s birthday, I bought him a gift certificate to go skydiving, something he’s long wanted to do. He asked me why I didn’t buy one for myself at the same time. So, you know, we could do it together.

I answered a quickly, firm:

Because someone needs to document and photograph this monumental event. Of course.

[gulp]

Jumping from an airplane is more terrifying than a nightmare in which I eat a block of old cheese crawling with spiders during the middle of a difficult conversation. The truth is I’m not very brave. I’d choose safety over risk almost every time. And I’d much rather watch my husband and his plane from the vantage point of the ground.

I want to be a person of courage, try to will myself into it and make myself do courageous things. I want to be someone who lives with boldness, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable.

Even when it costs.

But courage is more than jumping from a plane and eating bad dairy. It’s living with resolve, evidenced by these marks on my—your—life:

  1. Conviction: We love to be liked, popular, approved. And we certainly don’t have a problem doing what’s right and noble when accompanied by the cheer of fans. But what about conviction when absent applause? When your teenager threatens to run and your boss threatens to cheat? Or when a conversation with a friend slides toward gossip and criticism? Courage stands even if a relationship is lost in the process.
  2. Determination: Quitting is far easier than daring to live. This is why our foster care system and divorce court bulge with our discards. We lay down our responsibilities, loves and dreams too easy. But courage chooses engagement over safety, to love when it may not be returned, to pray when the calendar is full, to dream when it appears impossible. It’s not about being a doormat, but choosing to stand at the door until God himself shuts it.
  3. Compassion: It’s oh-so-easy to ignore the cries outside our fences and walls, isn’t it? We have more than enough to deal with at home, more than enough difficulty to manage and grief to bandage. But courage moves. Not only to feel another’s pain, but to act on behalf of it. It’s intentionally seeing what’s broken and doing something about it, even when the seeing and doing breaks us in the process.
  4. Forgiveness: Choosing to forgive is perhaps the most difficult mark of courage. It’s erasing the score, even when the other person doesn’t know they’re losing. Forgiveness is a daily jump out the airplane, risky because it’s absent the weight of the familiar wound and grudge. It’s a free-fall. But forgiveness is brave. Truly brave.
  5. Humility: We may be marked by conviction, determination, compassion and forgiveness. But wearing those marks like badges, all shiny and showing off, tarnishes true courage. Humility knows grace covers all. We’re determined because we’ve been pursued. We forgive because we’ve been covered. We stand because we’ve been secured. Humility simply follows the One leading, and knows any courage we muster was first sparked by His flame.

I may or may not skydive. I will certainly do my best to avoid hairy insects and bad cheese. But may the One who daily pursues, covers, secures and forgives me make me (and you), truly, courageous. 

Which one of these 5 marks of courage would you most like to display?

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