Tomorrow we will move out of our Cretan house, our home for the past three years. Three lovely Greek men are boxing up our possessions, finishing up the job, in various corners of the house as I type. Their voices echo across the bare tile, and I can make out the odd Greek word and phrase when I try. I sit, too, on the hard tile (the chairs are all gone now) and lean my back against one of the built-in wall dressers that grace so many Greek houses.
The other day I was listening to a WhatsApp message from a faithful friend. “I’m going to have to gain some courage,” she said. She was talking about tackling some decisions that faced her, stuff she hadn’t quite figured out how to handle yet. Feeling unsure about exactly which steps to take. You know the feeling. Some things weigh heavy because they’re just necessarily daunting - making decisions that affect our lives and our kids’ lives. It is never fun to weigh up options and see clearly the risks and concerns in each column.
I needed to gain some courage too. I know that’s why her words jumped out at my like that, from my iPhone’s speaker straight into my heart… because that dose of courage is equally necessary for me. We’re moving again in just two weeks. Our kids are older now and the stakes feel higher. They’re nervous about their new school, finding friends and fitting in. I’m nervous too, and the list is long. To rent or to buy a house? What if we make the wrong choice? Will everything be OK? Will the schools work, OK, will we find friends, a church? Will people be nice to us?
I’ve found that there’s nothing that makes me feel so vulnerable as moving makes me feel. Moving makes you feel like you’re alone, adrift and afloat upon a wide sea, unsure which direction land may be or how long it may take to get there. In the early days and weeks you’re without mooring, without bearings. Everything must be built from scratch. Sometimes when I think about it, it makes me feel exhausted and weak.
This is where the courage comes in, and why I need some. You need some too, perhaps, even if you’re not moving. You maybe need it for some other facet of your life. There are rarely seasons in life where courage isn’t needed in some form or format.
What does gaining courage mean? I think it means two things. First, it means praying for it. After all, we’re a people at war, though we often forget it. There’s truth to be walked in and lies to be vanquished. Goodness to be harnessed and evil to be shunned. Beauty to be grasped and ugliness to be turned away from. A path to be walked. To start, we must be on our knees. Praying for vision to see and then courage to Do The Things. And praying for a heart to hold steady when risks feel too risky and stakes feel too high. Prayer becomes the boat, or perhaps the anchor, in our moments of vulnerable floating. Tethering us to Him.
Second, it means gathering. Courage is ours to be had, but we must work for it. We must speak to ourselves about it, spur ourselves on. We must seize faith actively, reminding ourselves of how God was faithful in the past, and believing that God is who He says and is leading us like He promised. This takes work, and the weaker we feel, the more work it may take. But this is the work we’re expected to do, and the work we must do.
Courage doesn’t mean you stop feeling weak. It means you walk forward even amidst the weak feelings, praying and gathering as you go. Knowing that it will be worth it. That what is done with Him and for Him is always worth it.
“The Lord stood near Paul (when he was in jail and his life was at risk) and said, ‘Take courage!’” He said it to Paul, and he says it to us. Shall we go and pray and gather… and heed the call?