Thursday, August 28, 2014

Courage Under Fire

"...Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

I've been thinking about courage a lot lately, especially the last few weeks as I am preparing for a history class I'll be teaching this year.

Reading about the heroes of our country, the battles and wars, the sacrifice and the firm resolve of so many hundreds of thousands of Americans...something about reading aloud the words spoken or penned by the ancestors of our stirs my soul, and it gets me thinking.

"I thought, as I saw them come again and again to their death, that they deserved success, if courage and daring could entitle soldiers to victory." (Confederate General Longstreet, after the battle of Marye's Heights in the Civil War.)

So many men and women have sacrificed their comfortable lives, courageously taking up posts on the front lines, defending our freedom, fighting for principles they believe in, fighting for their families and for mine. It overwhelms me sometimes.

And sometimes it fills me with rage, hearing and seeing the negative words about our nation's military. Say what you will about the moral decline of this country. Speak out against things that you don't agree with in our government, politics, and even the way America is represented on the world stage. But when you start talking against the men and women who wear the uniform...we are going to have a real problem, me and you. Those men and women are the REASON we have the freedom to speak against the things we don't agree with. And even in peace times, they REPRESENT those who have given their lives to protect our liberty. As such, they should never, ever receive anything but honor for the courage they show every day. (phew, that was quite a soapbox rant...)

We, as a nation today, have lost something of the courage that America was founded on. We know nothing of 6 month wagon train rides, where we bury a child who fell under the wheels one day, and we move on the next, leaving our heart in a grave we will never see again. When we kiss our children and husbands goodbye each day, we don't even think about the women who hugged their husbands and sons goodbye, who held onto the hope that what their loved ones fought for was just, and so they would do the plowing and the roof repair and the hunting, and they would be both mother and father to their small children, and they would pray that the cause their men stood for would prevail, no matter the cost, because their sacrifice and courage couldn't be for nothing.

I've been studying, and I've found myself rocked by the courage of the ancestors of this great nation.

And I've also been a little sad, thinking about the difference in our country today. Because of the bravery of our heroes and heroines in history, it is likely that most people in our nation today will never experience anything like the tragedy of sacrifice that so many lived through in the past. Some will, and some have, and I am in no way trying to say their sacrifice and courage isn't as great as that of our past heroes and heroines. I am simply saying that it is much more rare today, this call to true courage. It is more common for a family to go through their whole life without ever losing a loved one in battle than it is for them to experience it multiple times, the way that families did in the past.

So I've been thinking about courage. And I've been turning it over and over in my mind, trying to understand the word, and the meaning, and looking for places to show it, and to teach it to my children and my students, today in this relative comfort we live in, this absence of a need for battlefield courage.

Are there places in my life where courage is needed? Will I ever be given a chance to lift my chin and rush headlong into the unknown? My days are ordinary. They do not ring with inspiration. They are filled, certainly, but not filled with anything of note. How will I ever teach my children to be brave?

My sister Joy was brave. She hero in this house. She rushed headlong into the world, taking the most important Cause, the Cause most just and worthy, to people who may reject her, to people who may laugh at her, to places that had never before heard of the Cause...she was a heroine of our faith. I strive every day to remind my children of her tenacity for spreading the gospel.

But what about today? What about ever day? How can I be courageous? How?

And then, in the midst of my pondering and wondering and disappointment with the monotony of my days...the Lord is speaking to me.

It isn't in the way I usually hear Him. It isn't a song, or a verse, and it isn't a thought dropped into my heart.

It is in the daily actions of my 10 year old son. A boy who has been exposed to hurt, and disappointment, and pain, the way no little kid should have to be. All my hoping that my children will come to understand courage in their lives pales in the face of my desire to protect him. I want, selfishly, to never need to teach him about being brave in the face of his hurting heart.

But he is living courageously anyway, despite my desire that he never need to.

His heart is open, and loving, and willing to be on the line, even though he knows, from experience, that he may be hurt. Even though he has been exposed to pain, and rejection, and disappointment...still he lifts his chin and faces the inevitability of future heartache.

I am so proud of my little man. He is teaching me something. He is telling me, every time he blinks back his tears and smiles at a new moment, that there is still opportunity to show courage in an everyday life.

I want to be like that. I want to wake up every day and look disappointment in the face, and lift my chin as I stare into the pain that is sure to come, and blink back my fear, and choose to live courageously.

Once more into the fray...

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