Thursday, March 6, 2014

Uncommon Courage for a Voice of Hope and Healing

Today, the second day of Lent, after a time of intense prayer seeking discernment, I noticed there was a new email with the subject line: Where Can I find Uncommon Courage? An Angel of mercy and wisdom had forwarded Rick Warren's daily devotional titled thus, along with a personal note:  I believe YOU, Anita Coleman,  have uncommon courage! This message so reminded me of you.  Especially the paragraph starting with "Standing courageously for an unpopular opinion........... I'm proud of you.

Thank you. Courageous is the last word I'd have used to describe myself and uncommon courage not at all! Confident and self-assured are labels I may claim but definitely not courage.  In fact, for most of my life I've been the open and good-hearted simpleton refusing to engage in schismatic views and extending goodwill and grace to all, a people-pleaser, doing anything and everything to keep the peace and forge unity.  Yet in the last month or so four different people have made me aware of the quality of courage in me.  Two of them called me "fearless leader" (I thought they were joking and in fact, have even laughed at myself using that term). One other said, I have a lot of courage and then, today's email! Do I really have courage?  I remember friends like Rebecca Friedrichs who just took a stand against teacher unions in the schools. Now, that is courage. I'm not like that. Recall the stories in the Bible of how Jesus would slip away from the hostile crowds? Well, that is me all over, except unlike Jesus who slipped away because His time had not come, I used to run away because I was afraid. I did not like conflict one little bit. Yes, I always tried to hold on to my principles, listen and compromise to the truth of others but when it did not bring peace, and uproar, unrest, unrighteousness continued, I, like Jesus, would slip away. Quietly. Except now. I am staying put and I am calling it out. Like wisdom in the marketplace. Like the prophets of old. And, a lot of times it seems to be happening most naturally, a few times even involuntarily.

What has changed? I don't know. All I know is that my voice of hope and healing is reaching into new territories beyond the pages of media. It is finding expression in the very relationships and institutional structures of our lives. Called to speak the truth gently, enjoy daily life in Jesus, it seems I cannot withdraw, and must learn to express unpopular opinions in a winsome way. So here we go, thanks again to my Angel.

Most people today, I have observed,are severely over-extended. This is then used as an excuse for why they are late, absent, or cannot do the things they commit to do. There is little to no awareness of  the dishonor in such over-extension. It leads to extreme "busyness" which then keeps us from enjoying our times of serving faithfully even in the areas where we're most passionate. We are becoming more and more busy, trading competence and diligence for seemingly more productivity. We continue to accept and cram more and more commitments and committee assignments into our lives justifying them as "good works" we are called to do. There is no one else to do them, never mind if I don't do them either because I'm so over-extended.  My point is very simple. Jesus did not call us to die on every cross. In fact, he urged us to "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." He came to give us abundant life, a life of joy. We don't find rest and neither do we exhibit joyful Kingdom living when we are consumed by busyness. Busyness is how the Church is being distracted, deceived, and defeated today. What do you think?

If you agree with me about being over-extended, I hope you will join me in this prayer:  Our Heavenly Father, Especially during this time of Lent help me to lay down the things that are not a part of your plan for me. Let me not squander the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for me. Help me live the abundant life I have in him with joy and gratitude. Give me the courage to say no and to surrender my ego and desires. Teach me to enjoy the good works for which you have created me, humbly, faithfully, and most of all diligently. And do all this for your glory, not mine. In Jesus' name, Amen.  


Warren, Rick. Standing Courageously for the Truth, Part 4.  (full audio message is available here).

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