Funny the way God gives us hints that He is at work in the world and in us. I’ve always been one to believe that nothing comes to us by accident.
Take this week for example. In our school, we have started 7 new groups which we’ve called “houses”. They are groups of kids from Grades 1-6. Each are named for one of the 7 Aboriginal sacred teachings, which are love, wisdom, respect, humility, honesty, courage and truth. Along with two other teachers, I was put in charge of the “courage” group. “Courage eh?” I thought to myself. “Now why is this teaching coming to me at this time in my life?”
Believing that this is one of the ways God speaks, I began to think about what courage means. We all think of firefighters or soldiers when we think of courage. The image of entering danger and overcoming obstacles seems heroic, but we often forget the underside of these glamourous images. These people must exercise mental and moral strength to overcome their fears.
I sat up straight when Tuesday morning’s Lenten meditation was about courage. The story from scripture that day was about Jesus healing a crippled man. He was complaining that he’d been sick for 38 years and everyone else got to the healing pool first. Jesus just told him to pick up his mat and walk, and it happened. The guy was amazed but Jesus left him with a warning not to turn back to his paralysis, or “something worse will overtake you.”
In the meditation, the author (Richard Rohr) wrote about a common pattern when we are sent into new and risky worlds. The crippled man was asked to stand on his own courageous two feet. He’d always wanted someone else to do it for him, but true to his character, Jesus didn’t give him the easy way. When we are met with the challenges of our lives, and all those places that “push our buttons”, the temptation is to regress into our old selves. “I can’t!” we say with the crippled man. “I’ve been like this for 38 years!”
In Aboriginal teaching, the bear symbolizes courage. It is gentle by nature, but the ferociousness when a mother bear is approached is the true definition of courage. The website called “The Sharing Circle” says it well, “To have the mental and moral strength to overcome fears that prevent us from living our true spirit as human beings is a great challenge that must be met with the same vigor and intensity as a mother Bear protecting her cub.”
I met with the “Courage House” on Wednesday, and the teaching was exactly what I needed. I had googled some pictures of courage, and a quote had come to me, which I shared with the kids. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher
I hung on to this quote all week. “I’ll try again tomorrow.” This became my prayer, and my reminder to move forward and keep growing in character and in God’s strength. My temptation, like the crippled man, is to stay with the old self (often crippled by my sense of failure), but God tells me that the challenges of our lives build character and hope. God tells me that “In this world, you’ll have troubles, but I have overcome the world.” This is who I want to model my life after.
This teaching has come to me at an important time. When I tell people I teach Grade ⅔, I am often met with admiration. It is probably considered a noble profession. What people don’t see in me are the fears that regularly bring me to my knees in prayer. I was supposed to teach about courage, but as always, I was the student most in need of the lesson. I saw God is with me, strengthening my courage legs every morning, replacing my fears with new hope.
“Healing God, give me the courage to move forward, and help me to see that my deepest sin might be my unwillingness to keep growing.” (Richard Rohr)