I’m not sure why it took me so long to see my mother as the exemplar of courage, but that’s what she was. In retrospect, her whole life was a portrait of courage, so why did it take me so long to realize it? I have a hunch.
Always honest, Mom characterized herself as being naturally fearful, and it’s true that, like so many, she fretted too much. But courage isn’t the mere absence of fear, as some would shortchange it to be; rather, courage means going forward despite our fear, confronting that which frightens us. And Mom only knew one direction in life—forward. For her, there was no retreat from life’s challenges; she faced them with sincere faith and walked through them in steely resolve.
Her second lesson in courage was likely one Mom never knew she had taught, but it remains indelibly etched on my soul, and that is this: courage is best taught—or best caught—by example. When widowed at a young age, it was in courage that she raised three young children to adulthood alone. Asked to manage a bookstore despite having no experience running a business, it took courage to step up to the task. (She turned a profit in her first year.) And though her family was with her as she approached death’s door, we could only look on with deep love and respect as she alone crossed over its threshold, dying with the courage in which she had lived.
The apostle Paul knew the best way for all of us to encounter our fears is to jettison our knee-jerk reactions to them through the Spiritual fruit of self-control, and he understood there is no better way to bolster faith and confidence in others than to exemplify courage among them. So, when coaching a pastor through distance-learning, he wrote this piece of practical advice to Titus, “Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech…” (Titus 2:6-8).
To which I say, “Well said, Paul.” And, “Well lived, Mom.”
Father, though I trust in you, I still fear what I should not fear. Send your Spirit to produce in me self-control and to encourage me with truth. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Christ in me is confidence.