“It’s easy to be courageous until real courage is required” – Erwin McManus
Nobody speaks to my soul like Erwin does. If you’ve never heard him speak or read any of his books, he is a phenomenal communicator and I highly recommend you check him out. Last week, however, he had me too fired up for my own good as I was determined to do what I could to save my share of the world. I wanted to embrace this idea of living courageously and making a difference for good in the lives of those around me. Courage as I pictured it, would require me to do more, and to be more.
Splat. That’s the sound of bug hitting windshield. (See part 1). After peeling myself back up off the glass I’ve been giving this courage idea a lot of thought. I’ve got an image of my childhood hangout, the swimming pool at East Frankfort Park in my mind. Picture this scene:
It’s a hot, sunny July day. The stifling air at the East Frankfort pool is filled with the smells of coconut suntan oil, hotdogs, and teenage angst. There’s a 12-year-old guy standing on the diving board, nervously looking down at the water hoping none of his buddies recognize just how anxious he is. He can swim. Well, in truth he can swim if he has to, but he avoids the water at all costs. For whatever reason he’s terrified of water, but he gave in for the first time all summer to his friends urging him to come hang out with them. He gave in again to their urging him to the diving board. Now there he is. Alone. A line behind him. The water below him. Every eye on him. What’s a 12-year-old kid to do? He jumps.
Next in line is a girl around 15. She’s fine with the water. Her fear lied in climbing up the steps to begin with. She’s there now. Its almost her time to walk to the edge of the board and she knows she will have to let go of the rails and she knows she will feel like she is a mile above the water. Her heart is pounding in her chest. She just hopes not to barf. What’s a girl to do to do? She walks out. She lets go. She jumps.
Watching all this is an 18-year-old girl/young woman who has battled body image issues her whole life. She’s always been “the fat girl” and she knows this because if kids can be anything it’s cruel. She’s heard it her whole life. She’s avoided the pool all these years, but this is the start of her senior year and she’s done worrying about what other people think. At least she wants to be. She’s beautiful just as she is and she’s really starting to believe it. What’s a girl to do? She takes off her wrap, lays back in her chair, smiles and enjoys the sun.
Did I mention the 15-year-old boy who has a huge crush on the girl with the fear of heights? He’s been waiting for any opportunity to talk to her but just hasn’t found the right one. In truth he’s had multiple chances. They sat next to each other in homeroom. They both were in band and he knew they liked the same music. Lunch period, after school, moment after moment where he could have said something, anything. What’s a guy to do? He grabs a towel and anything but confidently (you can literally see his knees knocking) walks over to the steps of the diving pool. As she ascends out of the water, he hands her a towel. “Hi”, he says.
Finally, there’s the mom in the station wagon pulling out of the parking lot. She’s just dropped her twins off for the day for their first-ever solo day at the pool. She knows they are old enough. She knows they are responsible. She just can’t help thinking “but they’re my babies.” She pauses, makes sure they get in the gate. She sees them high-fiving and running off after their friends. Lifeguard blows the whistle at them, there’s no running at the pool after all. What’s a mom to do? She pulls her sunglasses down, takes a deep breath, and drives off.
My question to you reader is this:
Who among those characters was the most courageous?
Can we really judge courage?
If you think swimming pool and courage you probably think of a lifeguard diving in to save someone from drowning. As someone who grew up at a public pool, I can assure you there was all kinds of courage on display day in and day out, and I never once saw a rescue.
All this is relevant (I hope) because what I said last post is true, we need courageous people in this world. What I learned or maybe knew but had forgotten was that courage comes in all kinds of forms. Courage is incredibly personal. What I struggle with and must find the courage to face, you may not think a thing about. Likewise, what strikes fear into your soul, or at least butterflies into your stomach, may be a piece of cake for me. We are all unique creations, and our journeys through this life including what we respond to and how we respond to it are as unique as well. Courage is not always recognizable. It’s surely most often lived out in moments around us all the time and we never see it for what it is.
Front-line essential workers are unquestionably the embodiment of courage in our world today. Don’t sell yourself short though on what you are doing in the midst of this anxious and troubling time. Courage today for many means sacrificing personal wants and staying home. For someone it may mean asking for help, admitting your struggling in isolation. For many of us it may mean reaching out and checking on someone even if it doesn’t come easy for us. for all of us it means trusting that this will pass and life will be better on the other side.
I guess this is the ultimate takeaway for me: Love always requires courage. Let’s be loving of others, and of ourselves. While you’re at it…
Be kind to yourself. Be patient with who you are. Know this temporary. You can do this as you need to.
As always, remember you are blessed, loved and forgiven – and I’ll add valuable beyond measure.