Finding Courage

by Jennifer Keeton

I have to laugh because the first thing that comes to mind when I think about courage is the story of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy meets the lion he is afraid but she reassures him that they mean no harm. He discovers that they are on a journey to meet a Wizard who will give them their deepest desires. Dorothy wants to go home, the scarecrow wants a brain and the tin man would like a heart. Despite his fears the lion decides to accompany Dorothy and the others to the Emerald City to find the Wizard because he needs courage. What he finds along the way is that courage cannot be magically bestowed upon him but rather discovered and earned through experience. In the end he learns that he really had courage all along and only needed to discover it.

In some ways our lives can mimic the story of the cowardly lion. We can be fearful, unsure and convinced that we do not have what it takes to really live out God’s will for our lives. When in reality we just need to take steps – boldly – to discover our gifts and the purpose that God has for us. This is difficult when there are so many negative messages telling us we are not good enough and we don’t have the talents necessary to act on God’s desires for us. There is a process of discovery, or a trip down the yellow brick road if you will, we need to take to get to the place where we have the courage to move into the plan God has provided.

Where do you start then? For me this process took several years and many conversations with a wise mentor. I spent countless hours trying to understand what my gifts were, following after others and trying to mimic what I thought a good Christian should do. Finally, I found inspiration and courage after completing an assessment tool – The Call. It was a personality test, spiritual gifts inventory and also a career evaluation. This tool has led me to a better understanding of my unique personality and gifts. I gained a better understand of my place in the body of Christ.

It was interesting to understand the gifts we are given have both a positive and negative side to them depending on each situation. For example, I am a planner and love to make lists, organize family vacations and research new exciting activities. This is essential and very useful in my career. However, I will forget to consult my family about those plans that include them… is not a pretty scene when they find out either! Learning to recognize when I was operating with my strengths in the right way was a key discovery.

Comparing ourselves to others is another common trap that we can fall into along the path to finding courage. What God asks of another is not what he asks of you. I like the verse in Romans 12 that says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” We must find our own gifts and walk out our purpose with faith. Comparing myself to others made me feel like a “square peg in a round hole”. I needed to find my own purpose.

I was inspired to write on this topic after being invited to the home of a friend from church. She is being led by God to start a group to participate in mission efforts together. She is actively walking in faith and sharing her heart with others which is very exciting! She feels strongly that God does not expect us to sit still and let others do his work – we all have a part to play. It took a great deal of courage for her to open her home and invite others to join in her vision. Her story is only one of many that I know of. Another friend is being led to start a support group for single parents. Something that is needed and best served by someone who is experiencing this first hand! Others are opening their homes and hearts to foster children. The list goes on and on.

Courage by definition is the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. Determination can be another way of looking at courage. Despite the setbacks that life can throw at you, courage will keep you moving forward toward the purpose or goal that God has called you to.

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