Who said courage wears a Red Badge?
It’s just khaki capris, a black tee, I pull out of the closet for a day dawning summer, me leaving the house for the heat, appointment and errands.
I have no red badge of courage, but I’m trying to wear prayer, the murmur of the weak made strong in the breaking.
Fear can snap the brave bones… stiff twigs underfoot. I keep fumbling prayer.
Pray for courage while I comb my hair, while I slip on my sandals, while I grab my bag, the keys.
Pray for courage because driving into town, even just to the grocery for bananas, can break me.
They call it agoraphobia: an anxiety disorder which leads to avoiding spaces or situations associated with anxiety. I call it the vise, chokehold to the neck, crushing esophagus hard, leaving you wild to breathe.
In the beginning, I took medication to ease the panic that surged in the gut, wave of terror to the throat, when I was in crowds. The last fifteen years, I take only prayer.
Then open the front door and take the first step.
I do. Courage isn’t only for for the everyday wars waging in our soul.
On the way to the city, country roads long ribbons unwrapping a morning all gilded, I spill herbal tea all over my pants.
I get lost.
Then I am late. Ridiculously so.
Then I get a ticket. I think I might die.
“This is the reason…” I catch my reflection in the rear view mirror, mutter to me a blotchy mess of hives, all flaming nerves. “This is the reason why you never leave home.”
The woman in the mirror is ashen and I look into her eyes and I know I should comfort, but a sharp rebuke’s burning up the tip of my tongue… The Spirit interrupts.
“It’s really your ugly pride that makes you afraid. “Just bow in humility to rise up in courage.”
His voice comes gentle, immediately, a grace caress for the angst-twisted. I exhale, a long slow release.
Bow in humility …
I whisper that comfort to pale face reflected.
Is it pride and appearances that box our lives up small and afraid?
Who dares explore, risk, attempt, when terrified to play the fool?
It’s only pride’s hunger for perfection that paralyzes a heart, keeps us enslaved to fear.
He soothes my anxiety with surprising truth: Slip on humility, make humility the mainstay of a heart’s wardrobe, and the world enlarges. Open humility’s drawer and there lies courage. Courage to go anywhere, try anything, meet anyone.
If I wear humility, I’m not afraid of the falling.
Wear humility because really what’s the worst that can happen? Exactly what has happened on a summer morning: I play the fool. Isn’t that who I really am? Isn’t that okay — because isn’t that who I am?
Are all my fears evidence of all my pride?
Jesus didn’t find courage for the Cross in the pride of who He was or bold illusions of self-sufficiency. He didn’t find Calvary courage by pulling himself up by the bootstraps of self-confidence and self-determination.
Jesus gave the world the greatest courage of all in the lowest place of all:
“he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
Courage for the impossible can only be found in the possibility of humility because “This is the one God esteems: he who is humble…” (Is. 66:2). Courage lives in the heart of the lowly… those who can embrace humility and the possibility of imperfection … because that needy place is the place we meet God.
I look at my watch, glance at the map, find that scared face again in the mirror and the laugh, long and good, begins in the pit of my stomach where it can unknot all my fears of failure.
I laugh and breathe deep and bow low to rise up and courage doesn’t wear a red badge but humility.
And maybe a pair of pants stained right through red, everything running all down…
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.
I have found this topic wrenchingly difficult to write about. Humility is timid. Write about it, talk about it, and it flees. But reflecting on it throughout the days of these past three weeks, has been a nourishment to the soul. Thank you for your grace…
Next Week: The Practice of Love… We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….
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