It all played out while I was in the womb. My parents were living in a trailer in Chester New Jersey, on Van Allen’s farm. But the town didn’t like it, because it was violating a zoning ordinance. My father, a very soft spoken, humble and pliable man had to go down to the town hall meeting to fight for his right to stay there. As the story goes, it looked like the town would win, until Mr. Greengrass stormed into the place. Legend has it, he marched up that aisle, and stood shoulder to shoulder with my dad. The board stirred, some held their breath. Then he lit into them, double barrels blazing. In the end, the eviction order was rescinded. The reason I like this story, is that at the time, my father was not a Christian. That night, the glory of God blazed through the love and place sharing of a man of God on behalf of his friend.
Moral courage like this brings me to tears. It’s the purest act of righteousness we can will our body into. Love can be selfish, service a farce, but courage means that we have stepped out of ourselves, our tendency for self-preservation, and taken a higher path. Stripped of all that’s false, weak and ignoble, we face and calculate the cost, always coming up short, but finding in that vulnerable pose, a virtue hidden until that moment—faith; pure undiluted and at the ready. Courage lets us see ourselves the same way God does, utterly weak, but exceedingly able through the power of His Spirit.
To step into courage, we forget ourselves, if only for the briefest of moments. Time stands still, and at the juncture between moving forward, and retreating, a singular choice sits like an elephant in the room, needing our attention. Will we obey the call, or not? It’s a small hinge that turns epic moments. A thousand voices on one side will cheer you into stone. While, across the way, in the other grand stand a single figure waits without words, or fanfare, waits for just a molecule of faith to come into the gladiatorial contest over our heart. The Holy Spirit, the One whose nature is power, love and discipline, waits for our will to decide. And when it’s time, when we obey, in the space it takes for an eyelash to flutter, He sends first His comfort to strengthen, and then power to speak.
What do you do when God says, “do you see that guy walking ahead of you? “Yea, I see him, so what?” “I want you to initiate with him.” That happened yesterday, out of the blue, no warning. I literally had to run to catch up with the guy. He was carrying an expensive camera across his shoulder, so I knew he wasn’t your casual ‘point and shooter.’ “Hey is that a Leica camera you have there?” Yes, I said that. I know, pretty lame, but it worked. He wheeled around, and we had two good blocks of conversation before he had to turn off. What’s my point? In the middle of our maddening days, perhaps God wants us to reach out to perfect strangers, which I acknowledge is pretty low on most of our wish lists. But, here’s why I think it’s so important.
A simple act of courage, like bringing up Jesus in a conversation, creates a backwash of grace, for it allows us to see ourselves in a greater light, splashed in a kind of glory, as God washes over us. Afterwards we marvel not so much over the step of faith, but for the residual grace that burns like a fire within us. The gospel is our salvation, but it’s also our daily bread, and we taste it afresh, each time we express it, because in that act of courage, He is standing with us, shoulder to shoulder fighting on our behalf, our friend, place sharer and comforter—the Spirit of Jesus.