The Anatomy of Courage

About two years ago, around this time of year, I started my walk to a little upstairs office with two, tiny, old windows. It was an office I had visited many times over the past three years. It was slightly rainy but the sun was shining – the oddity of the weather suited the oddity of my situation. As I briskly walked, my heart thumping was in my throat. I can still smell the musty scent of the old building when I finally was able to open the aging glass doors. The lines of what I would say ran rapidly through my mind, like the beginning of a Star Wars movie, with every step I took. The closer I got to the last door on the right, the fuzzier and fuzzier those lines got. The tightness in my gut made me want to bend over and catch my breath. My clammy hands made themselves hard to wring together. Tears caused the grey and black speckled carpet at my feet to blur. I had finally made it to the door. To the upstairs office with the two, tiny, old windows. And it was time. I felt my legs shake. But, I took deep breaths til my tears went away and reached for the door knob that you had to jiggle in order to open. All of the words that I had rehearsed flew from their branch in my mind. It didn’t bother me though because I knew that this was where I needed to be and the words that needed to be said would be spoken. I lifted the door knob to the upper-left, turned it and walked in…..

 

I am a book hoarder. It is a problem. And yes, even though I have completed Step 1 of the process in admitting I have a problem doesn’t mean that I have accepted any inkling of a need for change. There is something about books that I find comfort in. I could literally spend hours and hours in a library or bookstore. Unfortunately, the latter is not good at all for my bank account.

But, I have a solution to my predicament. Every purchase is more justifiable and more of an investment rather a withdrawal if I buy it at 2nd & Charles. If I buy something there for a discounted price, am I really throwing away money on something that takes up space? Naaahhhh. And, better yet, once I return it or any book that I no longer need or want to pass along, I can get store credit! Well……there is a flaw in my system: the being able to part with books. Even if it was a raggedy-old-smelly book I dug out of their free bin.

The free bin is a magical place. I have rescued so many books from within the wire cages. Most of them are in the free bin because someone was trying to get rid of them and 2nd & Charles won’t accept them. Frustrated previous owners don’t want the hassle of unloading them from the mini-van and lugging them back up to the attic, so they chuck in the free bin. Free to a good home. They range from waaaayyy overdue library books that were discovered in grandma’s basement to an extremely beat up, outdated tour guide manual. They all just need a little T.L.C.

I have found many a treasure in the free bin. I have found a book of poetry from the 1960’s called Apples of Gold by Jo Petty – a woman’s collection of biblical truths and words of wisdom. I have learned from So Excellent a Fishe by Archie Carr and his adventures studying my favorite animal, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, during the first efforts of conservation for this endangered species.

My latest find may be my favorite: The Anatomy of Courage by Lord Moran. Sounds intense right? I mean when I picked up the book, the title had mainly images of Mel Gibson pop in my head relieving a mixture of “The Patriot” and “Braveheart”. I saw a man in a blue kilt, screaming, running around with an axe-thing.

This tattered book was a retired library book from the Illinois public library system. How it managed to locate itself in the free bin in the state of Georgia and at a 2nd & Charles free bin is beyond me. My romantic side could come up with many a story or scenario to answer that question. But, regardless of the possible hands that possibly studied, folded the corners of pages, or underlined in thin grey pencil lines that touched their hearts and wanted to commit to memory, I do know that it was checked out several times according to the slip inserted into the pocket of the first cover page.

The Anatomy of Courage  was written by Lord Moran, the personal physician of Sir Winston Churchill during the First World War. He wrote three books about what it was like to be the great Winston Churchill’s personal doctor that accompanied everywhere he went. And everywhere Lord Charles Wilson of Moran would follow Churchill, the “black dog” of Churchill’s not yet diagnosed depression would follow. Apparently, (according to my limited research) Lord Moran’s documentation and memoirs of treating Churchill helps us gain further insight to who the great British hero was.

He later published The Anatomy of Courage after the end of WWII. I started reading it and instantly all of the intense scenes from “Private Ryan” started to flood into my brain. The scenes that make my palms clammy and I feel like I want to cry as I curl up tighter in my blanket on the couch. Any time that I watch an intense war movie like that I feel exhausted after. I know what I am watching is created and crafted for a screen, but deep down under all of the Hollywood glitz, glamour, and attempts to sell more tickets, some of the images that were entering into my brain was true. These were real men. Men who had families back home they left for an unknown land across an ocean. They had names. Birthdays. Christmases. And they had so much heartbreak. They did it for home. The home we call “home” today.  Their courage. It had to be the real kind.

I could only make it through a few pages at a time of Lord Moran’s stories. I would start reading and then felt the knot forming in my stomach, making me put it down to catch my breath and escape back to my reality of naivety.

It wasn’t because he was extremely graphic. It was because he was straight to the point. And frankly, we aren’t like that anymore. I would love nothing more than to sit with Lord Moran. Share a cup of tea. And I feel like if I would to receive life counsel from him, I would probably walk away with tears rimming my eyes due to my sensitivity and to his bluntness. But, I would learn. Oh, I would learn.

 

And I feel like that is what courage is – in my mind’s eye. Drinking tea with a hard, soldiered reality. You are flooded with intimidation, but you walk away standing a little taller. When I think of courage in my life – I often feel that I fall short. I haven’t really had to face life or death. Nor have I had to leave home for an indefinite amount of time. And I have only felt really terrified one time – a kayak accident in the snow (but that is another story for a different day).

But what I don’t think we realize is that courage isn’t always in the form of a raging lion. It doesn’t always wear a kilt and blue face paint. Courage can’t always be displayed on a battlefield. Courage doesn’t have to be loud. It doesn’t have to be written into a movie or captured in a book. Courage isn’t always legend worthy. Courage has a much larger definition and depiction than that.

Courage is in our choices.

I believe that the anatomy of courage is born in our everyday circumstances and choices. It must be planted and bloom in the commonality of normality before it can grow into a way of life.

The day that I walked into the little upstairs office with two, tiny old windows, I quit.

Yes, I quit.

I quit being afraid. I quit allowing something to dictate my time, stress, worries, anxiety, diet, thoughts, goals, fears, ambitions, and choices.

I quit being a college athlete.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not trying to Taylor-Swift anything about this situation: not college sports, being a collegiate athlete, not my alma-mater, not my previous coach or teammates. I do not want to make them out like they are worthy of having a song played about them on repeat because they hurt me. I do not regret anything about my decision to become who I was then: Audrey. Defensive Mid. I wear #23. I was that for three great years. But it was time to take that jersey off, and just be Audrey.

But I do know that not being defined by the sport I played, the number I wore, or the position on the field I specialized it was one of the most freeing things that I could have ever done for myself. You remember how I said that courage is born from our everyday choices? Well, this one was the first choice of courage I had made for myself. Not for anyone else or out of fear. But, this was my choice of courage. It wasn’t the easiest. It wasn’t the most clear. But, it required courage and I knew that it was the correct one to make in order to be where the Lord needed me to be.

Courage requires commitment.

You may think that what I did was not a big deal. Or you may be shaking your head thinking that I was one year short of playing all four years – why not tough it out for just one more season. I couldn’t do it. Not that I couldn’t do it – I am as stubborn as they come. I guess it was more of the fact that I could do it. I can do it. But, it was the easier decision. I was a part of something. I had my identity carved out for me and I didn’t have to reach for it somewhere else. My schedule was made for me. My friends were already handpicked for me. My clothes were chosen for me, practically. I was part of the “in” crowd.

But, within the “in” crowd – I didn’t feel in. And eventually I wanted out. But out was scary. It meant making my own schedule. Finding new friends. And getting rid of half of my athletic closet riddled with a logo that branded me with my identity.

I won’t go into why I no longer wanted to be a part of the herd. But, I will tell you that it was time for me to move on. And that was terrifying.

I knew that leaving the team would be a commitment that required more dedication that being on the team ever required out of me. It meant not regretting my decision when my soccer body decayed into one not of toned muscles and abs. It meant finding my identity not in what people thought of me or how many minutes I played on a field. It meant that I needed to face and cling to something bigger. Trusting in the Lord. In many different, big areas.

This was a hard one for me because it was easy to depend on the other things. Being a soccer player was the most consistent thing in my life since I was about seven years old. It was there through family issues, ex-boyfriends, and moves, whether it was moving houses or the big move from high-school to college. It was what motivated me to go to class, get the attention of boys, or to make it through injuries and surgeries. But trusting in the Lord to get me through rather than the sport that had so defined and shaped me required more than just saying I would no longer be Audrey, Defensive Mid. It required me to commit to being Audrey, child of God. That meant committing to Him no longer just the decision to play or not to play?. It demanded that I commit every choice. From the everyday to the mountain moving choices and actions.

And I don’t know about you, but I am a bit of a commitment phobe. It is nice to have the easy way out, just in case. It is less complicated to just not RSVP to the parties of life, just in case another opens up or you just don’t feel like showing up and would rather eat ice cream and watch I Love Lucy reruns on the couch instead. Courage has nothing to do with feelings. Courage is making a commitment despite our feelings. John Wayne was the ultimate man. I mean, the Duke, the real cowboy – he is a guy’s guy. And he says it best about courage (I know my dad must be beaming whenever he reads this and is thinking “Man, I raised her right”. Yup, thanks, Pops.) . He once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

Fear is a natural emotion. It is a necessary emotion that teaches and molds us. We now know after getting burned to not touch play with matches. We know now after losing someone that we must always remember to say, “I love you”. But, fear needs to be a teacher, not a murder of taking chances, standing firm, or following through.

It is ok to feel fear, but what we do with that fear shows our character. Courage is following through no matter how you may be feeling. When I think of courage, I think of Ruth. She became a widow. Ruth must have felt afraid and hopeless after being stranded in a strange land alone with her mother-in-law. But, despite all of the fear, doubt, and anger, she decided to show courage. Ruth didn’t allow the emotion of fear influence her commitment to Naomi. I can almost picture her clinging to Naomi. Tears streaming down her face as she says “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.” Ruth 1:17-18 ESV. This makes me think back at my life and wonder, What if I showed this kind of commitment and strength with every area of my life?

 

Courage is Christ commanded.

Ruth is not the only one in the bible that showed courage. You can find it countless other places. But this courage shouldn’t be mounted on a wall in the form of a plaque for Christians to look upon. It shouldn’t take in the form of a trophy in a room for us to just merely admire and idolize. It is something that we are commanded to apply in our own lives. Every. Single. Day.

It is a choice. It is a commitment. And it is a command. That means we gotta follow it. No exceptions.

Joshua 1:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
(NKJV)

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(NIV)

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(NIV)

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
(NIV)

 

And you know what is crazy? The last verse I showed y’all. It was written by Paul. Formally known as Saul. He was a persecutor of Christians transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a great warrior for the gospel. He stood firm through beatings, persecution, a thorn in his flesh, and shipwrecks. But he did not give up. Despite how he must have felt through all of those hardships. He had a choice and a commitment. He was courageous not for himself, but for the cause of sharing Christ. But, that is not even the most crazy part. Did you know the same Spirit that he found his strength, boldness, and courage is open to clumsy, silly, scared, worry-warts like me? My friend, I do not know what you are going through, but I do know because you are human, like me, that you are going through something. Everyone always is. My hope and prayer for you today is that you make the choice and commitment to follow the command of courage.

I know on a spring day about two years ago, when I walked to the little upstairs office with two, tiny, old windows to make a choice that was a terrifying and huge commitment, I did not feel like doing it. Not doing it would have been the easy thing to do. Fear, doubt, and anxiety were running rapidly through my veins. But, I did it. It was terrifying. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, throw up, or change my mind. Really it was a combination of all three. Audrey, Defensive Mid, walked into that office. A different person walked out of that office. Fear taught her a lesson and courage helped her win a battle.

I pray that you choose to make today the day that you stand tall, no matter how you are feeling. And just know, that you are not fighting that battle alone. If you look around hard enough, you will see that others are fighting in it, too. Just keep your eyes on Christ, and remember that the battle that truly means life or death, He has already won it for you. Just rest in that, and that is the anatomy of courage.

 

Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will.

CHARLES WILSON, LORD OF MORAN, The Anatomy of Courage

 

 

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