I looked up the definition of courage the other day out of curiosity. Courage is essentially the ability to confront your fears. It has nothing to do with not being afraid, or even overcoming your fear. Courage is the choice to stand up under the weight of what makes you afraid, or terrified. It is trembling and heart hammering. It is blood rushing to your head and weak knees. Courage is doing it anyway. Or, like we always say, doing it afraid.
I think it looks something like this:
"One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!" Gideon replied, "With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, 'Didn't God deliver us from Egypt?' The fact is, God has nothing to do with us - he has turned us over to Midian." But God faced him directly: "Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven't I just sent you?" Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter." God said to him, "I'll be with you. Believe me, you'll defeat Midian as one man."
Gideon was hiding. Everyone was hiding. They were oppressed and in constant danger. It seemed like God had forgotten them. Gideon knew the stories - God had performed great and miraculous rescues for his people over and over again. But not now. Not for him. So, he hid. Like we all hide. He survived. He did what had to be done, but kept his head and his heart low.
But THEN, friends, the angel of God came and sat down. No big show. No thunder or lightning. No announcement. Just the long absent Presence of God settling down in the midst of Gideon's everyday life. And there he sat, facing him directly. There God asked something of Gideon that scared the crap out of him. How could he trust that God wouldn't fail him? How could he expect that he would find anything other than death and destruction on his dangerous quest? He couldn't. That's why he needed courage.
That's why we need courage too. We need to stir up the ability to lean into really, really hard conversations. We need to listen to what is being said and let it trigger all of our abandonment issues. We need to let our hearts be sparked by adrenaline and desperation before we pour ourselves into something that seems almost impossible and incredibly daring.
Gideon wasn't expecting God that day, or any day. He had decided to trudge through. He had resigned to life as it was. But God had always planned to sit down under a tree with Gideon. He had always known that this conversation was coming. And that's how we know that sometimes courage is what aligns us with God. Sometimes courage is stirring before we even have a clue it's required.
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