We live in a world that recognises and respects courage: the military hero, the policewoman who dies in the line of duty, the fireman who dashes into a burning building and emerges with a child in his arms. We are familiar with this kind of bravery as a result of our long patriarchal past.
This is the kind of courage God refers to when he describes the sea monster to Job: “Merely a glimpse of this monster makes all courage melt.” (Job 41:9)
With spiritual development, however, courage takes on new forms—and there is a place for them in our toolbox. The courage required to push ourselves to the next level falls into two kinds: outward directed and inward directed.
Outward directed courage
Outward directed courage is the closest to the traditional military-valour type of courage. This is the courage to step outside your comfort zone and do something you not only haven’t done before but also—more importantly—haven’t felt capable of doing.
Micah speaks of the way that God can help us to overcome fear. “But the Lord has filled me with power and his Spirit. I have been given the courage to speak about justice and to tell you people of Israel that you have sinned.” (Micah 3:8)
That place outside our comfort zone is scary. We don’t know what happens out there. We don’t know how others will react to us stepping into that twilight zone. Just the thought of it induces an unpleasant feeling between our legs. It makes us squirm and look for the slightest reason not to do it.
The path to the New Earth is a continual expansion of our comfort zone. Get used to it. Courage is the tool we need to take the next step.
In my experience, the path to the New Earth is a continual expansion of our comfort zone. Get used to it. That stomach-rumbling feeling you get when you’re about to step outside your comfort zone is something you will become familiar with. Courage is sometimes the tool that we need to take the next step.
I can’t say that it gets easy, but it does get easier. You’ll get to know very clearly when you need to step up and you will learn the futility of resistance. Instead of putting off crucial changes and letting issues fester, you’ll get better at knocking them out of the park as soon as they show up.
Inward directed courage
The other kind is inward directed. That’s the courage to expand your ‘inner comfort zone’.
For men, this might involve the courage to become softer and abandon macho posturing and violence as problem-solving methods. In a society built on the concept that men should be physically and mentally strong (and, implicitly, emotionally inflexible), letting go of this paradigm is a very courageous step.
For women, it might be the opposite. Step into some angry masculine energy. Give that dysfunctional family of yours a damn good shake. Watch the closet doors tumble off their hinges and the skeletons come rattling out… pick up the carpet the family’s dirty secrets have been swept under for generations and watch the creepy-crawlies come scuttling out.
No one may thank you, but you’ll know with utter certainty you have done the right thing. And they’ll know with utter certainty you are not to be messed with.
Jesus gives us courage
It might mean finding the courage to stand tall, like a lighthouse, and resist something that threatens to sweep over you that you know is wrong.
Hebrews 10:19-20 describes this beautifully. “My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself.”
That ‘curtain’ is our comfort zone; courage is the tool to take us through it.
Like any tool in our New Earth toolbox, when you use courage properly you will be left with the warm glow of knowing you have taken another step along your own path—and made the world a better place.