In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4.
Chest rising like a barely-whispered prayer to the sky.
Breathe in, 2, 3, 4, and out, 2, 3, 4.
I try to take into account my body and ground myself, but my body is the very thing keeping me from being grounded.
My body is a catatonic air balloon that pulls my soul up, up, up into the atmosphere. One arm has a blood pressure cuff and the other an IV. The familiar—albeit uncomfortable—hospital blanket is scrunched up in a pile at the foot of my bed because seizures make my body feel like it’s on fire.
I tell myself over and over again to breathe.
My head and stomach lurch as the world around me spins out—dimensions shift and the very ground upon which I wish I could walk loses integrity and I find myself falling, falling, down, down, down.
I force air into my lungs, but it only makes the fire inside grow hotter and it seems there is nothing I do to fix a problem that doesn’t create another problem.
The spinning in my head slows and I see the people surrounding my bedside. To my right, my pastor grips my hand—or rather, I grip his—holding on for dear life, a steadying force in this raging wildfire.
I look into his eyes, then the eyes of my friend, and finally the eyes of my mother. Then the world goes dark.
Since that hospital stay, I’ve been grappling for courage.
Whatever that looks like.
When I think of courage, my mind drifts to knights in moon-silver armor, triumphing over their enemies, running towards that which most people run from to save someone.
I wish I could do that.
There is no doubt in the knights’ courage as they run toward dragons and dreadful castles guarded by even more dreadful monsters. But I think that in times of suffering, it is also an act of courage to be the one waiting in said dreadful castle guarded by dreadful monsters—watching from a tower as your only hope for salvation plunges into the thick of danger, hoping and praying they make it through to the other side alive (or without giving up and turning back altogether).
It takes great strength to be weak.
It takes a certain kind of bruised and broken to break open one’s soul and pour out its contents in raw vulnerability. To wait when we want to run.
I don’t like waiting.
I don’t like watching.
I don’t like being trapped and dependent on someone—something—else to rescue me.
In so many ways it would be easier to don myself in armor and take up my own fight. But I can’t. My head cannot lift itself off this pillow, let alone my arms lift a sword. My legs cannot withstand the weight of my body, let alone carry me through to the other side. The reality sets in like a heavy rock in my stomach.
I cannot save myself.
And then I think I catch a glinting glimpse of understanding across this cracked and crooked soul.
Have courage, Dear Heart.
Have courage and let go.
Have courage and ask for help.
Have courage and wait.
Gather courage as one gathers wildflowers—not stopping to count the petals or measure the length of each stem, but a joyful, bountiful, bringing in of beauty with no regard for what beauty is. I gather these wildflowers—this courage—and clutch these fistfuls of bravery and strength to my chest. I breathe in the scent of soul-healing hope… and I wait.
Where are you seeking courage?
Perhaps it is to be found in an unlikely place.
Maybe, gathering courage looks a lot like giving up.
But isn’t that the way of Jesus? To go against what is typical, predictable, or expected?
Courage isn’t always the crescendo to the grand symphony of our lives. It does not always lead us to higher places or leave us with tales of victory.
Sometimes, courage is letting your Love untie your sneakers when your shaking hands cannot.
Sometimes, courage is admitting you need help, that you’re drowning and you need a life preserver. When you need someone to bare this burden alongside you.
Sometimes, courage is realizing that being dependent instead of independent is actually the harder of the two.
Sometimes, courage comes softly.
Not like the rise and catastrophic fall of a wave.
But the gentle, nudging laps of water that come in after a storm.
Sometimes courage is found at the bottom of the well we call endurance.
After we’ve extrapolated all our energy trying to save ourselves because we’re too scared to leave such a task in the hands of someone else, we find that it is then that courage is required.
Fighting battles is scary.
Letting someone else fight your battle for you is terrifying.
It requires a letting go of control.
Over and over again, I will find that I am brought to a place of inevitable surrender.
No matter how many times I strategize and plot my way to win, I am reminded that it is on my knees—head bowed, hands raised—that I find my seas parted, my mountains moved, my goliaths slain, my tomb’s stone rolled away.
One of these days, I’ll stop looking for courage and let courage come forth in whatever form He wills it to. Because really, that’s always how courage works. It never comes in the way you expect. It comes softly. Slowly. Step-by-step. The journey to slay the dragon begins with the single act of picking up your sword.
Laying in an ICU bed and fighting for life for 7 days taught me a lot about courage—and it isn’t at all what I envisioned.
That was one of the scariest moments of my life, yet it was one completely change my mindset on what it really means to have courage. That courage would be desperately needed as I would face months of learning to manage a chronic illness following that hospital stay. I would find that courage was often choosing to be soft and gentle in a world that told me I had every right to be angry and bitter.
Where do you need courage today?
Is it in a relationship? In your finances? Facing a diagnosis that has rocked you to your core? Maybe the courage you need for those things isn’t what you think it is. Maybe it is stillness, softness, a quieting of your soul.
Maybe it is asking for help when you would rather hide away.
We all need courage to face the world around us, it just might require letting go of what we think courage is and taking up the ways He leads us down.
We win the battles ahead when we surrender our here and now to the only One who can ever, truly save us.