Being Willing to Get Courageously Messy

by Feb 14, 2020Connect, Courage3 comments

What will these next few weeks and months hold for each of us? Really none of us knows. But instead of leaving it all to happenstance (hmm…a word I rarely use), why not invest in something exceedingly important. Bumping that up a few notches, why not make it something so courageously pursued that it will impact others in life-changing ways. Even if it might get messy.

Did that stop you?

Don’t let it. Begin where you are with the measure of courage you have, but do begin.

Recently I read a poem by Rachel Macy Stafford called, “Let Me Be Love.” Instead of a love that is easy or convenient, it points toward “a show-up kind of love that is found where it is least expected . . . where it is most needed” (and probably messy). One that “silences hate-talk, throws out lifelines, and scoots closer.”

Scoot closer to love. As you do, you’ll also scoot closer to courage.

What would that be for you?

Respond From the Heart

Courage for each of us is often about something that won’t be easy or natural for us but we move forward into it anyway, with all its messiness. We see something that matters to us, that grabs our heart, and we feel we must respond. The courage part is that we do respond.

Look at the story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus shared. In courage, the Samaritan said both yes and no. Yes, it is my heart to see the need, and I will help this beaten person left to die. And no, setting all hesitancies and cultural restrictions aside, I cannot walk past and ignore what I see as a problem. I must act.

Steven Garber addresses this in his book, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, and asks, “How can we have our eyes open to reality and understand that we are more implicated, for love’s sake, now that we see?”

We must be willing to get courageously messy.

The root of the word “courage,” coer (French), or cor (Latin) means “from the heart.” It refers to the center of the person, the essential heart of the person that offers the strength of spirit to face danger or difficulty. It is authentic full-hearted or wholehearted participation.

Willing, invested, and all in.

Ask Questions for the Heart

Take a few moments to look and see what around you feels messy and in need of, for love’s sake, a few people willing to take courageous action and help move the situation into a different, better place for all. A few questions for reflection:

When I look and see, what do I find stirs my interests, passions, and values? (My resounding yes.) You might notice these stirrings around one context or several—your home, neighborhood, community, or more widely within the world.

What are the needs I see? (My no: No, I can’t allow that to go on like it is. I can’t not do something.)

Given these observations, who am I willing to be? (a loving family member, a compassionate neighbor, a community leader, a visionary leader, a change agent, etc. *)

And in recognizing who I am willing to be, in what three ways am I willing to actively engage that intention, with courage and wholeheartedness, over the next month?

Authentically and Prayerfully Engage the Heart

Move through the above questions as a prayer activity. Ask God to help you view each question through his lens and his heart for you and the people involved. Allow him to lead you in discernment and in authentic action.

Observe your thoughts and feelings around what stirs you. Also see who God has created you to be and the image he has stamped uniquely on your courageous heart.

Identify foundational Scriptures that will ground your courage and your action. Examples: Psalm 133:1; Joshua 1:9; Matthew 18:20; Luke 6:45; Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 3:14; Hebrews 10:24-25.

Choose actions that can be stated clearly and simply, and yet creatively, as S.M.A.R.T goals.

You are a person full of heart, courageous. I’m guessing you have already recalled a real need in your home, community, or world—some life area that is messy that you feel called to engage in. Take time to move through the questions and see what else you discover that will help you see that you can and see how you will. Scoot closer. Be that person who, for love’s sake, responds—authentically, prayerfully, and with courage.

And be courageous in sharing here too. Tell us your stories or share your thoughts around your courage-in-progress. Ask your questions. Let us know how we can pray for you and cheer you on in the coming months as you open your heart to be all in, making a difference.

This is a republished post that we felt had relevance for current Voice of Courage conversations and events. 
Some of the ideas around considering our intentions, who we are willing to be, and what we are willing to do are gleaned from coaching training Jan has received through the Academy for Coaching Excellence, Sacramento, CA.

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  1. Karen Foster

    I am in a season of life…albeit late for having spent 30 years being blessed to raise children….to look beyond my immediate walls and step into the messiness around me. I’ve tasted courage in the past. Had several years of being a jail chaplain and feeding homeless. I can attest, there’s nothing like stepping out of our comfort zone in order to touch the face of other people’s reality that looks very different from my own.
    I gave myself a reprieve to fill up my own tank once empty nest arrived. Now I’m praying about the next chapter…my marching orders from the Lord. So yes, I appreciate prayers for the “discernment and authentic action” you mentioned. I don’t want to reach for the sky when there are people in my own sphere who need some hands-on encouragement etc. So I’m trying to clearly hear God’s voice so I can say “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” Rather than run ahead of him. The bigger challenge is knowing if someone “asking me to serve in a situation” is God’s nudge, or a distraction from where I need to be. Your thoughts??

    • Jan Kern

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and your story, Karen. I certainly will be in prayer for you in this new season as you seek to know God’s direction for you.

      My thoughts about your question . . .

      Think again of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Looking behind the scenes a bit, someone like this man would be well prepared before that moment he helped the man alongside the road. His character to serve and his compassion would already be in place, a part of who he was. Someone like him could be on the way to what he usually did in serving his community with his passions and calling, but wouldn’t see helping the man—even at great lengths—as an interruption. The situation before him was where he was called to enter. He couldn’t say no and walk past based on who he was and knowing the situation.

      In the post, I challenged readers to consider who they intend and are willing to be before they look at what they are willing to do. When we step authentically into who we are, as God has created us or is inviting us to be, then looking into the day or week before us, we can both plan actions around honoring that intention (our ongoing wider ministry or work) as well as be prepared to respond to what is before us at any given moment.

      What if we see many things before us? Sometimes something really isn’t in front of us. It’s not ours to respond to. I think it’s possible for us to practice fine-tuning the discernment to know what authentic action we might courageously take—and best so alongside intentional and authentic being and much discerning prayer.

      An approach during the discovery stage is to respond to needs in short term ways or try different things through short term or one-time volunteering. See where your heart grows for that need. I think that’s a part of God at work and nudging.

      Maybe we should get together for coffee sometime . . . grapple together around this. 🙂

      • Sarah Bond

        Glad you asked this question, Karen! I’m reading this dialogue as I also discern who I’m called to be and what is truly before me. So important!

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