Monday, September 29, 2014

Confusion About Courage?

Who knows how much courage this craft of war, the LST 325, carried
as the soldiers inside it prepared to storm the beaches of Normandy?

We hear a lot about “courage” these days: Athletes playing through nagging injuries: “Courageous.” Daredevils attempting outrageous stunts, hoping their YouTube videos will go viral: “Courageous.” Entertainer or celebrities making declarations outside the social norm: “How courageous!” people respond in unbridled admiration.

Maybe. Or maybe not. When conforming to nonconformity, as long-haired, bell-bottomed, tie-dyed, “far out, man!” hippies did in the 1960’s, how much “courage” does that require? If it’s “in” to do within your peer group, doesn’t it demand more courage not to do that thing?

When I think of legitimate courage, examples that come to mind are Branch Rickey, then owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play baseball in the Major Leagues. Their story was dramatized in the film “42,” but real life offered more than enough drama for them.

It was 1947, and Rickey decided to do the unthinkable – breaking the color barrier by bringing up Robinson, a member of the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs, to play second base for the Dodgers. Rickey had no doubts about Robinson’s athletic prowess, but could the young man withstand the pressure, prejudice and racial epithets to prove a black player could compete at baseball’s highest level?

And Robinson, of course, had to be willing to endure scorn and hatred as the target of mindless bigotry. He was alone. Crossing the boundary into an all-white sport and proving he belonged was hardly the “in” thing at that time. Together, Rickey and Robinson exemplified what true courage should look like.

Even at the controls of an anti-aircraft
gun, sailors must have felt very exposed.
Recently the LST 325 (Landing Ship, Tank) made a stop along the Tennessee River here in Chattanooga, another example of real courage. This stark gray, 330-foot craft was used to transport tanks, vehicles, cargo and military personnel during World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. Looking at this battle-scarred vessel, which landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, I couldn’t help but imagine the courage possessed by the hundreds of servicemen who left its austere bowels to storm the beaches on that fateful day. Many of them never left those shores alive.

One other example comes to mind: the Israelites poised to enter the Promised Land, leaving memories of slavery in Egypt behind and entering a foreign land to confront formidable foes and an unfamiliar environment. They had no Navy SEALS, Green Berets or Black Ops forces to neutralize and defeat the opposition. There were no Blackhawk helicopters hovering above to watch their backs, or even automatic weapons. All they had was faith and good old-fashioned “chutzpah” to press ahead.

Moses, who had led Israel out of Israel and around the wilderness for 40 years, had died, leaving his successor, Joshua, to complete the journey. Despite many miracles God had performed, the Israelites had cause for feeling apprehensive. Knowing this, God issued just one directive through their new leader. He instructed Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6).

To ensure His message was understood, God repeated His command. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

Then for emphasis, God gave the command a third time: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Joshua passed these commands on to the people of Israel, who vowed to follow him and do as he instructed. Then they in turn exhorted their leader, “Only be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:18).

These words were spoken and written thousands of years ago, but remain just as relevant today for those that follow Jesus Christ. What daunting challenges, what formidable obstacles do you face today – at work, in your home or in some other area of your life? For what do you also need to be “strong and courageous”?

You might be thinking, “That sounds like a good idea. But easier said than done. How can I be courageous with what I’m facing?”

That’s a question many of us are asking, or will be asking at some point in the future. And in today’s turbulent times, with news bombarding us daily about terrorism, disease epidemics, severe weather and many other threats beyond our control, 21st century living isn’t for the faint of heart. So again we ask, how can we be courageous?

Many times we can’t muster the strength, no matter how hard we try. That’s where faith comes in – the kind modeled decades ago by men like Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, and probably many soldiers as they were leaving the LST to do battle with an unseen enemy.

We can find this courage as we trust in God, as King David wrote: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would find the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome - thanks, Bob!