Christ is the ultimate teacher and He is great at IEPs (Individual Education Programs). Day in and day out, He reveals himself to me through His Word and satifies my soul through communion with him in prayer. There are times however, when I find He zeros in on a particular area of need in my life and in those seasons of specialized instruction, the lesson He is endeavoring to teach me seems to be directly in front of me every way I turn.
I am in one of those times now and much to my surprise, the subject is “courage”.
I never thought much about courage when I was younger. I guess I did not need it quite so much back then.
The really funny thing is, I think even those closest to me might be surprised by my admission that I am in need of courage. I endeavor to live life fully. I can be passionately outspoken about injustice. Once, my own Pastor described me as “firey”. (That’s humbling.)
But God wants me to take the next step and so he is speaking to me about fear, courage, faith and all that lies between. As the Father speaks, I am astonished to find there was far more fear lurking in my life than I realized. Suddenly, it is so vividly apparent to me that I wonder how I ever missed it.
Just a couple of days ago I went out for a run before church. I have never been much of a runner but have been doing it more often lately. I was just starting out and as I looked ahead to the first hill in my path, I just wanted to turn and go back home. Then, it hit me: I was afraid of running that hill. Forget being afraid of physical injury or death, I was just afraid of being uncomfortable. I was afraid of the sensation of my heart hammering in my chest and the muscles in my legs straining with the effort. I was afraid to feel my lungs gasping for breath.
I was afraid I would not have what it took to reach the top. Again. I needed courage for the hill but my need does not end there because life takes courage.
Courage to be healthy in a relationship that is defined by dysfunction. Courage to speak the truth in love. Courage to stand for what is right, even if you stand alone. Courage to love without reservation. Courage to try something new. Courage to dream big. Courage to say “I’m sorry.” Courage to embrace the person you were created to be. Courage to lay aside your mask, and just be real.
Where does a person get courage like that?
What I am finding is that we all have a multitude of fears but there is a difference between hopeless fear and fear that drives us to our Maker. Hopeless fear steals our sleep and haunts our quiet moments. Hopeless fear whispers, “What if?” and leaves us shuddering to imagine the possibities. Hopeless fear steals peace, and shatters joy, but fear that drives us to our Maker is fear that leads to victory.
So, the other morning as I looked at the hill stretching before me, I prayed. “My God, it is so lame but I admit I am afraid of that hill and the discomfort it represents. I cast my weak self on you. Will you give me courage, my God? Will you help me run the hill?”
Then, I ran and for the very first time, I made it to the top. Beaming, I could not help but share the moment with my Father in Heaven. “I did it, Father! Thank you so much for giving me the courage to stick it out to the end.”
One more test passed in my Heavenly IEP and I think I am beginning to get the point of the lesson. Fear is not so bad as long as I run into my Father’s arms.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? “