I've never thought a lot about courage. It seems at time to be an archaic word, used only in the stories of old or in the advertisement schemes of the Armed Forces. In America, we prefer a world where we have nothing to be afraid of. Billions of dollars are spent every year across the country with the intent of eliminating the fear of tragedy, hopelessness, loneliness, and a thousand other subjects of discomfort or even death. This isn't to say this isn't such a bad thing - especially when you get sick and the doctor bills come in.
But there certainly is a massive downside to this equation. You see, in a world where there's nothing to fear, there's no need for courage. For the most part, our lives in the West merit no need for courage. We are essentially safe (or at least the illusion leads us to believe) from war, death, or inconvenience.
But perhaps I'm passing too much judgement on the societal aspect and not looking at the core issues of our (my) heart. There's no question that there's plenty of ways for ordinary Americans to practice and live lives of courage right here at home. Having a conversation with someone takes courage. For some, even getting out of bed takes courage. But I don't think I'm stepping out on a limb when I say that the majority of us live without a necessity for courage.
We need courage only when we live a story that demands it. If the stories of our lives never encounter great fears - if we don't stand face to face with something well beyond our power and abilities - we will likely never need courage. While I believe God is sovereign in our stories (Proverbs 16:9), I do believe that we must choose to live lives that demand courage by putting ourselves in situations where we aren't enough - where the only hope is for God to come through. That's why courage and faith are synonymous.
For myself, going to India is a step in the direction of courage. Just going isn't the scary part - it's what God is calling me to do when I get there. Teaching 100-150 pastors for two weeks on the kingdom of God... teaching the Vineyard Prayer Model, actually praying for healing in a country that where God is already at work miraculously... Are you kidding me? For two weeks? I've never needed more courage, because I've never known more clearly how weak and powerless I am in light of the task. But I know this is is exactly where I need to be - where I'm not enough and God is more than enough.
Luckily courage isn't a shot in the dark. Jesus said "Take courage, it is I." The 'it is I' echoes the OT story of Moses, when God reveals Himself as "I AM." Courage, then, is just faith lived out in a God-sized story. God willing, this will be the beginning of many more courageous, God-sized stories for many years to come, as God leads me (and us) to an even great need for courage.