What do you want to be if you grow up? I know, the question is usually “when you grow up” but the twist is deliberate. The answer is also going to be a bit of a twist.
The twist behind the question about growing up is that your age actually has little to do with it. I’ve known of children that have displayed wisdom and courage well beyond their years in their life choices. I’ve also known of “grown ups” who’ve acted like anything but.
On November 14, 1960, a 6-year-old girl walked into an elementary school in New Orleans. That seemingly mundane act was actually a massive display of courage.
In 1960 the United States was still mired in segregation and racial hatred. When a federal judge ordered New Orleans to open its public schools to black children white parents let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. White parents were keeping their kids out of school because of hatred and stupidity, black parents were keeping their kids out of school because of fear. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges went to school anyway.
Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an otherwise empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob. Two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big, silent school building.
Today’s verse says BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS
When asked about her daughter’s courage, Ruby’s mother said, “There’s a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and what’s not good; then there’s other folks who just put their lives on the line for what’s right and do good.”
As I was reading today’s verse and praying for insight, it occurred to me this morning that the verb in the verse is critical. BE. Only two letters, but they define everything of importance in a single syllable. Strength and courage must translate into action if they are to find their expression in our lives. Fear is debilitating and crippling. When I see someone with that “deer in the headlights” look on their face, I often remind myself that being paralysed by fear seldom works out well for the deer.
But how can one find strength and courage when facing situations that paralyse others in a world that appears out of control? The answer is a simple one. How do you find anything you are ever looking for?? The only way is by looking in the right place! It does not matter how hard or how often you look in the wrong place, because the outcome never depends upon your effort or your determination. Let me explain with an illustration.
If I’ve left my mobile phone at a store, I can only find it by looking at that store. I can search my home and office very, very carefully. I can open every drawer, look under every piece of furniture. I’ll never find it, because it is not there. Even if I get the help of people with perfect eyesight and bright flashlights, it makes no difference. You can only find something by looking in the right place.
In order to be courageous you have to overcome fear. Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. My bible tells me that perfect love casts out fear. The place to find the love that will cast out your fear is at the foot of the cross. We can “grow up” and embrace both love and courage there at the foot of the cross.
The greatest act of courage this world has ever known is when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, went on His final walk to Jerusalem. The Bible tells us that even though Jesus knew that He was going to be crucified, He set His face toward Jerusalem. And He didn’t flinch, because He had decided that even though He had to die to reconcile this world back to God, He was going to go through with it. He went knowing what was ahead. And the motivation for this incredible act of courage? It’s called love. His perfect love for us cast out any element of fear that would hold Him back.
Love won’t protect you from every problem or attack. Love removes the fear and allows you to face them in peace, knowing that the outcome is in the hands of One who loves you more.
The website for the NO FEAR brand features images of people in all sorts of extreme sports situations. My favorite is an upside-down biker; pictured in the middle of a 360 jump he appears to be doing the impossible and riding his bike on the ceiling. The phrase that is repeated in all of the incredibly challenging situations is “THIS IS MY COMFORT ZONE,” though the situations appear anything BUT comfortable.
The underlying message from NO FEAR is clear. When you overcome fear, the uncomfortable can become comfortable. When you can overcome fear, you can learn to do things most other people would never attempt. Overcoming fear let’s you BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. It broadens your “comfort zone” to the edges of reality and beyond.
As “grown up” believers, His perfect love casts out our fear; regardless of your age. And then it invites us to enter the battle. The same love that casts out our fear opens a world of opportunities to serve the One we love. His love determines where we are called. And it redefines our “comfort zone” by overcoming fear with love.
Will you choose to let His love overcome your fear with His strength and courage? When you do, where will His love take you? Where will you find fulfillment? The biker’s skill and determination allowed him to be upside down for a brief moment. But your gifts and calling will enable you to turn your world upside down as you live out the verse BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.
Welcome to your new comfort zone.