Cold-blooded courage is in short supply. When we see it in others it moves us off our smug pedestal, and brings us face to face with God.
Recently, I met a man whose 17 year-old fought a gallant battle with a rare cancer. In a video of her testimony, she makes light of her wig by raising it off her head to laughter and tears, all the while knowing she had just three months to live. Then she made this comment; “the person I am now, is who I want to be.” She had stared down imminent death, and God gave back to her the character she had always wanted. I wonder if many of us reach that point in our lifetime.
Shakespeare coined the phrase, “to thine own self be true.” That may appear sound advice, but in it’s original context it meant to take care of yourself first….” Not a good model for someone who wants to live out the gospel. I choose rather, “be true to yourself,” which sounds similar, but means to obey what your will says; don’t back down because of fear, intimidation, or threat. Refuse to listen to your mind’s myriad of excuses. Rather, play the man, the unique creature God made you, and into which He is forming Christ.
Courage can be allusive. It often steps off a cliff on the circuitous path between the mind and the heart. Last week God whispered a phrase into my ear that I haven’t been able to dislodge; “You live well between the ears, but not between the thieves.” Translated: “You have a wonderful imagination, but I can not reach the world from in there, I need your will fully engaged, and willing to take the hard road of sacrifice and surrender in order to follow me.”
Last fall I was sitting in the cafeteria of a school in Montreal, Canada, with Cru high school national director, Darryl Smith. As we engaged students about Christ, they told us they were atheists, yet open to the words of our testimony. At one point out of my peripheral vision, I noticed a guard approach, and stand over us. “What are you doing here,” he asked? Darryl and I looked at each other, and thought, ‘well the gigs up!’ After a brief discussion, the guard had heard enough, and decided we didn’t belong on his campus. “If I see you here again,” he growled, “I will call the police.” We had a choice in that moment, would we cower under the administration’s furious stance against our presence? Would we back down? The next day Darryl and I wisely went to another campus, but the team returned to this one and shared Christ with many students. God dispersed us, and the lateral move put me in position to meet a young man on another campus, to which I had a watershed conversation about knowing God.
Jesus Christ forged the toughest path any one of us will ever take, and now looks back into our eyes, raises his hand, and beckons us “come.” “Come, I will give rest.” Come, when courage melts before menace, I will bring your will into the heart, and unite it with faith to please me. To be true to ourselves puts us in a daring stance, but it never fails to reward us. To live between the thieves means that I will follow in the steps of Christ, who decided against the idea, “To Thine own self be true.”