The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” Proverbs 22, verse 13.
This is a fitting D-Day verse, you know.
It stinks to be fearless. I’ve only met one Medal of Honor winner in my life. My friend and I were in an elevator and in walks a Vietnam War MOH recipient. He and his wife were in town for a Medal convention, and he wore the light blue ribbon with the five white stars. If you’ve never been impressed by such things, go stand beside one of the men who have won the Medal and ask yourself if you could do what they did. To get the medal, you earn it by proving you’ve done something selfless, something you didn’t even think of and something so heroic that it exemplifies what is best about human character. If you talk with people who have received the medal, I bet you would find humble people who would tell you ‘it’s no big deal.’ They’re ordinary men who did extraordinary things in fearless ways. I’m in awe of such heroes.
It also stinks to do things we feel compelled to do. That was the subject of the sermon in church yesterday. My good friend, Bill, announced that he has quit his job and is becoming a ministerial trainee, a church planter. Bill is one of the more fearless men I know; the job he did in law enforcement testifies to that. I can’t speak for Bill but something like that would give me a lot of pause. I’m not sure I have what it takes to give everything up and follow a compelling call. I know what I want to do in life but I find it difficult getting to that point. I want to write for a living, yet feel encumbered by my responsibilities and the fear of failing. Hence, I work a ‘primary’ job while my heart is in the words. What’s more, I feel more drawn to the words that share faith than many of the words that tell stories I conceive. I’m no Blue Max winner, and I’m not my friend, Bill, who is overcoming his trepidation of the same things I fear in order to follow where God is leading him.
Maybe God is trying to tell us both something.
Maybe He is trying to tell us something because I never want to be one of the cowardly slugs who cry wolf or lion. For many years, I lived in fear of what others could do to me. Unhappy, I finally reflected on what it was I was afraid of: others, what others could do, or being close to others. Guess which one of those was the real culprit? Cowardice is disgraceful, even more disgraceful than anything else I can think of. I think that we all have moments of great fear, and there are indeed some things of this world which it is good to respect in fear. When you predicate the rest of your life on that fear, though, you become a coward. When that happens, you become the person who screams, “there is a lion in outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” I don’t want that.
Even in my personal life, I lived in fear of failing my responsibilities and of failing the people I loved. I held onto my heart for so long, not giving myself over to who God intended me to be. When I did that, it drove wedges into my relationships; is that a surprise? I was afraid of the lion of real feelings, afraid of being slain in the streets by them. It takes an extraordinary heart and an extraordinary God to overcome fears like that, teaching a meager man like me how to love again. It’s an even more extraordinary lesson to learn that you have to be willing to risk everything for them, to be selflessly willing to give whatever you have to in order to have that kind of love in your life. Only God can teach you that, but He does it through the mystery of His word and the good hearts of good people. I’m not the man I was not very long ago. In many ways, I am much better, even after all it has cost.
And yet I’m still not heroic or fearless, and I still struggle with the call. I know what I want to do with my writing, yet that hasn’t come through yet. I believe in myself and I believe it can happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Until that time, I keep trying, keep working, and keep doing my best. That’s all anyone can do. And I’ll never win the Blue Max but I will always admire the people who do. They are the kind of people after God’s own heart.