A Courage That No One Sees

Oct 19, 2016

It was the first news story I saw when I woke up Monday morning: Country Star Randy Travis Stuns Crowd by—Singing.

I’m not exactly sure why the headline caught my eye, buried as it was by election sewage.  Also? I’m not a country music fan. Of course, most of us know the genius that is Randy Travis. He’s a 57-year-old icon, a creative giant whose music artistry breathed fresh life into a gasping genre decades ago. I grew up to the sounds and stories of Randy Travis. If there was an arena, he sang in it. If there was an award, he won it.

Until 2013, when a viral infection around his heart caused a massive stroke that nearly killed him. It didn’t kill him. But it stole his voice.

To be honest, I didn’t know any of this until Monday morning, when I happened to glance at my news app. I vaguely recalled something had interrupted Randy’s career, something that kept him from the spotlight. But I was consumed enough with my own story in 2014 and 2015 that I hadn’t paid much attention to his.

The article went on to talk about Randy’s music performance on Sunday night, part of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. For the past three years, he’s been walking through a Lazarus-sized coming-back-from-the-dead. Family members say he’s still unable to speak, couldn’t have delivered an eloquent acceptance oratory, even if he wanted to. But he could sing. One song. Even if audience members said it was far from the voice they once knew.

Before I say another word, let me be clear: My losses don’t compare to Randy’s, not even close. I know this. But I also know I’ve experienced enough to imagine what the last three years have looked like for him.

Randy’s stroke didn’t just change his health. It altered the entire trajectory and experience of his life. And, as much as fans and family celebrate his “return to the stage,” no amount of medical treatment, speech therapy or emotional recovery will give him his old life back.

Because of that, I have an inkling of how much it cost Randy to climb onto that platform Sunday night. To step back under the hot lights, altered as he is. To allow himself to be seen as the man he is, not the man he once was.

Truth is very few people understand this. In a world of dreamers who need nice Hollywood endings, very few can see—or accept—the harsh reality: some stories don’t have happy endings, some losses can’t be recovered and time doesn’t make all grief go away.

In other words, the courage Randy displayed on Sunday’s stage is no greater than the unseen courage he shows every flipping day he chooses wake up and live.

For those of you who understand the truth behind my words, I want you to know: I see you. I see you facing each day of your unrecognizable life. I see your trembling will to keep going, even when you’re not entirely sure why. I see you fight to open your eyes, your heart, your arms. And I see the silent courage you display in allowing yourself to show up and be seen. It’s more difficult than anyone knows.

Though years have passed, you are not the same. Your Loss—a child, a relationship, a body that works, a marriage, a hope—isn’t so small that time, therapy or a prescription will make all things well. You may have days when step out into light, and perhaps those of around you exhale with relief: She’s back. But I also know there is no going back. And, because of that, you have plenty of days when you’d rather hide than stand on a stage and sing.

This is the courage that no one sees, when life’s losses are big and sweeping, and when they alter not just a day but an entire lifetime of days. But that sliver of audacious courage you carry around in your beat-up body is what makes possible those Sunday night, Randy Travis moments. When a crowd of wide-eyed onlookers stare at the face of someone who shouldn’t be alive, but somehow finds the will to to sing. And, in the light of this public undoneness, they borrow a bit of courage for their own.

By the way, the song Randy Travis sang Sunday night?

Amazing Grace.

Because those who face the brutal truth of this unexpected life know hard work and determination can only carry a person so far. Sometimes the only strength and courage we strugglers have left to cling to is grace.

Amazing, unflinching, undying Grace.

{P.S. And Randy? Thank you for lending this once-singing girl the courage to keep belting it out.)

[reminder]Where do you find hidden courage when you fear you have none? [/reminder]

{Image Copyright: albund / 123RF Stock Photo}

29 Comments

  1. Brad Hobbs

    What I am finding Michele is this…I really don’t have the courage I wish I had so I could command into existence the life I once dreamed of. But I do have a courage that keeps showing up in moments I need it most. It’s sorta like faith. In fact, the two are becoming very similar in nature, affect and effect to me personally. So it makes me glad that I’m not the author of it. I’d surely misplace it when I truly needed it.

    You and Randy Travis are in a unique choir together. It’s chords of grace and strength encourage us all!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Sue Martin

      You cry, you wail sometimes, you grieve, you pray, and something or someone bigger than you starts to move you forward in spite of yourself. It’s baby steps at first interspersed with all the above crying, wailing, grieving, and praying when one day you realize you are making progress in spite of yourself. That realization makes you suddenly understand that you can get through whatever turned your life and your body upside down. You suddenly understand that God has a purpose for you even if it isn’t revealed yet, and you actively begin to take steps to get through the grieving process (for you must grieve the life that was before you can build a new one). Again it’s baby steps, but you gain confidence as you go once you realize He is supporting you. You realize the courage has been with you all along as you make the decision to live or die. I knew from the beginning that I had that choice. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. I chose life although I didn’t know how altered it would be. You and Randy also chose life. Once you choose it you have to live it and have the determination to make it a real, meaningful life instead of getting stuck in the grieving. You need the faith to understand that once more God is supporting you and giving you courage as you go. You and Randy have public venues to show your faith and courage. I do not, but nonetheless I show my faith and courage everyday as I crawl out of bed and begin to walk through my day on ruined, painful feet. Maybe as I do that, I inspire others. I don’t know. But I know it’s what I must do.

      Reply
      • Heather

        Beautifully written, Sue. I’m certain, after reading your words, that you are inspiring others through your strong faith and courage. Thank you, for your heartfelt comments!

        Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      “So it makes me glad that I’m not the author of it. I’d surely misplace it when I truly needed it.”

      Um, YES.

      Reply
  2. LeAnne Martin

    Wow! Thank you, Michele. This is gorgeous–honest, and transparent, and so, so helpful for those who are dealing with Loss and for those who don’t know catastrophic Loss is like. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Rochelle

    Michele,
    Thank you for sharing so eloquently what many of us are feeling, but can’t find the words to express. Thank you for being so real and vulnerable. I am blessed everytime I read your posts. You are an encourager to those of us who have dealt with loss and inspire hope to continue the journey.

    A fellow struggler,

    Reply
  4. Betty Arthurs

    Tears…Beautiful post that sums up my life’s struggles. When all about us is taken away we can only hum Amazing Grace and it’s enough. Thanks for your encouraging words.

    Reply
  5. LauraB

    In Him alone, every day I tell Him I don’t know how to live this life as a single mom of 4, but I know He can help me through each step. He’s taught me so much about His faithfulness and Sovereignty the last 2 years and in the amazing ways He carried me through 3 cancers…I would never have wanted any of these things to touch my children’s lives but if I look at it from the perspective that He’s used all of it, every bit, to reveal His greatness and His love for them…I’m so grateful…there’s nothing I would rather them learn more about in their lives here than HIM!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Faithfulness and Sovereignty. Such freeing, comforting, resting words. Even in the hard.

      Reply
  6. Ruth

    I cry out to God for He is the only thing that keeps me going at times.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Don’t stop crying out, Ruth. He hears, every time. And He cares, more than you know.

      Reply
  7. Colleen van Nieuwkerk

    Proverbs 31:25, Strength and dignity are her clothing…
    God uses these words from Proverbs 31 to instill courage and calmness deep in my soul which results in doing the next right thing…
    Love your vulnerability and honesty, Michele:)

    Reply
  8. Bobbie

    Wow, nice, Michele. Your heart is so real!

    Thank you~

    Reply
  9. Patricia

    Hi Michele,
    I find courage in remembering God’s promises to me. Yes, to me. I am learning to cling to His Word, especially when I struggle with arthritis in my lower back. He is a faithful friend, and for that I am grateful.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      I often think of Moses, a man who God would speak with “as a man speaks with a friend.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve prayed, “God make me a Moses!” And He has done it, in mercy.

      Reply
  10. DIXIE DIAMANTI

    Thank you Michele for once again helping us to look at that which we wish would go away…in your vulnerability to share these truths you are setting so so many of us free to not always have to have the answers, or create the pictures we want, but to just rest in Him who walks through every fire with us.

    Reply
  11. Jo-Ann Sassone

    Once again you give an honest, vulnerable and poignant voice to the human experience. Where do I go when I need courage? To God’s words of comfort and promise. Time and time again His words inspire me to meet the challenges, the disappointments, and the fears that life sometimes sends our way. Thank you for this reflection on bravery and hope.

    Reply
  12. Stacey

    This is so beautiful Michele. I can’t help but think, “If I had only one moment and one song to sing, what would it be?” He could have sang one of his songs. He could have sang anything…but he chose to sing grace. Amazing grace.

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  13. Katie Westenberg

    Beautiful. While all of our stories differ, we each carry some of the unexpected, the undone, across our shoulders. Our courage to keep stepping is never minimized by the world’s ability to see it. That unseen courage is every bit as vital, every bit as life giving. I am thankful for those who truly live it. The entire world is better because of it.

    Reply
  14. Renee Swope

    Every time I read your posts Michele, I am reduced to the vocabulary of a second grader, because I can never find the words to describe how your writing impacts me. It splits me open in the best ways.

    Like Katie said, we each carry some kind of unseen unexpected and undone, across our shoulders. Knowing He sees me, and you see me, gives me courage friend. On the days when I just want to pack it up and live a very quiet unseen life, you give me courage to show up and offer others courage through His amazing grace. Love you.

    Reply
  15. Donna

    This post is exactly how I feel..after a painful unwanted divorce (as a pastors wife) I lost my church, friends,
    my role, my home, my daily life and well planned future. It has been almost 10 years and I often myself
    still hiding…not recognizing who I am or where I am going. It truly did alter the entire trajectory of my life,
    and I have still not found a happy ending.
    Thank you for seeing us…..

    Reply
  16. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Oh Michele. I needed this today. Sometimes it just helps to know there are others out there who woke up one day to an unrecognizable life…and there will be no coming back. Everything gets divided into before and after. But others courage gives me courage. Thank you sharing this and thank you for being you.

    Reply
  17. RODNEY PRICE

    Question: Where do you find hidden courage when you fear you have none? My answer: Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3.

    Reply
  18. Shirley Williams

    Shortly after the Olympics, I got some much needed encouragement from two Kens — Ken Davis of Nashville, Tennessee, and Ken Mills of Searcy, Arkansas, and related scriptures.
    ===============
    “This race God has called us to does not have a winner’s circle. It only has a finish line.”

    — Ken Davis on “James Dobson’s Family Talk” podcast, 8-31-2016, episode “Ken Davis Shares from his Heart”

    ******************

    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, AND NOT ONLY TO ME BUT ALSO TO ALL WHO HAVE LOVED HIS APPEARING.
    — II Timothy 4:7-8

    *************************

    KEEP ON GOING!

    Rookie contestant Mary Helwig finished last in this year’s running of the Iditarod, a grueling, 1,000-mile race across Alaska’s frozen wilderness.

    She finished 71st, crossing the finish line almost five days behind the winner. She had many reasons to quit, but she didn’t give up.

    • Last summer, she lost her home and possessions in an Alaskan wildfire that also threatened her dogs, but she didn’t give up.
    • During the race, some of her dogs got loose, but she didn’t give up.
    • At one point, she lost the trail, but she didn’t give up.
    • She had back-to-back sled breakdowns, but she didn’t give up.
    • She mushed on past 14 teams who quit, but she didn’t give up.
    • She had to borrow a sled from a musher who dropped out, but she didn’t give up.

    Because she didn’t give up, Mary Helwig finished the 44th running of the Iditarod.

    Hebrews 11 is about people who didn’t give up: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel …

    They went through a variety of difficulties and persecutions. The text says, “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated …” (Hebrews 11:36-37, ESV).

    But all of these folks had one thing in common: they didn’t give up — they kept on going!

    Jehovah God wants his people to keep on going, no matter what the situation. When we put our trust in him, he will always be with us!

    • Are you facing health issues? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you having problems with co-workers — or your boss? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you conflicted because of a divorce? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you struggling financially? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you facing life having lost a child? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you struggling with bad habits? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are there conflicts with a family member — maybe even one of your children? Don’t give up — keep on going!
    • Are you wavering in your faith in Jesus? Don’t give up — keep on going!

    If there was anyone who could have given up because of difficulties and hardships, it was the apostle Paul. He was beaten; he was shipwrecked; he was thrown into prison; he was rejected; he was ridiculed. … But he didn’t give up — he kept on going!

    He writes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV).

    The writer to those Hebrew Christians knew those folks could face a multitude of issues that would cause them to lose their focus on the eternal, but he gives them the encouragement and direction they need.

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus [fixing our eyes on Jesus], the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1, 2, ESV).

    Whenever difficulties may come up in our lives (and they will), let’s remember this: Christ Jesus has made us his own, so let’s fix our eyes on him and keep on going!

    — Kenneth Mills, The Daily Citizen, Searcy, Arkansas, 8-19-2016

    Reply
  19. Geneva

    Heidi,

    You are one huge special person, right where you are— right where God wants you to be.! What an awesome letter, all the thought behind it was sooo God
    inspired ( in my view) and I for one
    thank you for taking the time to write it for all to see.
    Bless you for your heart,
    Lovingly, Geneva S.

    Reply
  20. Laura Brigante

    Not a regular blog follower but that might’ve changed today. I read the story about Randy Travis and had no idea also as to what he went through. A few days ago I was told that I would need a bowel transplant, yes they do do those theses days. Not fabulously unfortunately that’s why I’ve waited as long as possible to even consider it. I was hoping God would heal me as so many people hope alongside me. And I haven’t lost that hope but I have to start going through the motions of living life on this planet, where life can have extreme joy but also extreme pain and disappointment. You see my daughter is getting married, and I have so much I still want to do with my husband (I so want to grow old with this man) family, friends and I know when I start the transplant process my life will drastically change . Time – I never thought this word would have such meaning for me. Looking at me you would think nothing was wrong with me. In fact even my doctors who knew what was going on inside of me would always say “you know you look good”. And I would think yes bc even with abdominal pain I would take a shower, wash my hair and look the best I could. Friends would call it courage but I always knew it was the Great God that I love giving me Grace and Mercy each day. So my future is uncertain but then again everyone’s is. I know if and when I go through the bowel transplant He’ll be right there heaping on more Grace and Mercy on me. And I guess my future really isn’t as uncertain as I think bc one day I will be with my Lord and Savior and that is certainly a future I can look forward to. As for now I pray God gives me that time so that my daughter will be married and settled and then I’ll take care of me (spoken like a true mom 🙂 A friend wrote this to me once and I look at it often: “No matter how hard life gets…never let go of God’s hand. Holding on tight …. Praying for you Michelle. And Thank you.

    Reply

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