By the time I saw my dad lying in the hospital bed, hooked up to his IV, he appeared calm and ready for his second knee surgery. He was laughing with the nurse who was taking his vitals, and telling her he planned to be playing golf again in three weeks…as he did following his first knee surgery.
But later, when they had wheeled my dad away for an anesthesiology block to deaden his knee, my mother reminded me that Daddy really struggles with needles. As in needles, blood and other hospital-type-stuff make him feel squeamish and like he might pass out.
I had forgotten that about my dad.
I thought back and realized that the last and only time I remember hearing about my dad’s aversion to needles, blood and hospitals was shortly after he had endured all three of those things…for my benefit.
When I was seven years old I fell out of my bed in the middle the night and struck my forehead on the sharp corner of my nightstand. Disoriented, I awoke screaming and crying, and my parents rushed to my room. I remember my daddy cradling me in his arms within seconds. As he wiped at my wet brow, my mother turned on my bedroom light. My daddy was startled to discover that he had been wiping away not sweat, but blood.
That night my mother stayed home with my sleeping brother while Daddy raced me to the emergency room. He held the bloody washcloth to my forehead while we waited to be seen, soothed me in the examination room and patiently stayed with me while the doctor stitched me up.
It wasn’t until I sat at the kitchen bar eating my stack of pancakes the next morning that my mother told me she had been surprised to hear that Daddy had stayed with me as I got my stitches.
“Your dad has real problems with blood and needles and hospitals in general, you know,” she commented. No, I hadn’t known. And nothing in my dad’s behavior during my traumatic night would have indicated that he was squeamish.
And so, 40-something years later, when my mom reminded me of my dad’s fear of needles, I thought back over the years reflecting on my father’s responses to other difficult moments.
- When our pop-up camper shook and rattled and seemed destined to blow over a cliff one windy night in Carlsbad, New Mexico, Daddy calmly assured us all that we were safe. (40 years later, with the perspective of an adult, I’m not so sure my dad knew this to be true.)
- When Daddy accidentally ran over my cat Muffin after delivering me to my Girl Scouts meeting one Tuesday evening, he courageously confessed to the mishap just two hours later when he picked me up. That couldn’t have been easy.
- When Daddy walked his only daughter down the aisle to give her away to a man who planned to take her 900 miles away, he calmly patted my hand and assured me everything was going to be okay.
- And when I confessed to my dad that three months after the fact I still struggled to sleep at night and function during the day following my husband’s seizure, he infused me with courage and assured me I would grow from this ordeal and one day thrive again.
We don’t just need courage to face needles and blood and hospital scenarios. It takes courage to tell the truth when the truth is ugly or hard, to go to work when the work environment is stressful, to move forward when the past is more appealing, to say “no” when someone we love is begging us to say “yes” but we know it isn’t best or to step out into uncertainty when our insecurities are begging us to stay put.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Recently, I’ve needed courage to keep silent when I wanted to speak up, to speak up when I wanted to be invisible, to let go when I wanted to hold on and to spend a day in a hospital when I, too, would much rather not. On any given day just being a mom may require more moxie than I naturally have.
As I considered the fact that my dad’s weakness with blood and needles never prevented him from doing what he needed to do, I wondered at where that strength and courage came from. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, you know. In fact, courage is feeling extremely squeamish, nervous, unprepared, ill informed, uncertain and even a little doomed, but moving forward anyhow. Courage counts the cost, comes up short and then counts God in and charges forward anyhow.I can be courageous when uncertain because God is certain, when unable because He is able. Click To Tweet
So where did my daddy get his courage? I believe most often my daddy’s courage has been motivated by love.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18)
My daddy’s love for me enabled him to hold my hand while my brow was stitched up. His love for his family infused him with stability while our camper shook perilously in a windstorm. His love for life and his desire to live it well for the Lord he loves is supplying the courage to endure round-the-clock and painful physical therapy so his knee heals correctly and he can get back to playing golf, serving his community and travelling with his wife.
Love is a powerful motivator to walk forward in courage.Love supplies godly courage. Pride supplies a foolish imitation. Which motivates your bravery? Click To Tweet
Make no doubt about it. There are other factors that can motivate us to step out on a limb. Namely, pride often infuses us with what sometimes passes for bravery but really is not. Pride plows forward because it is self-seeking, thrusts out its chin and straightens its shoulders with confidence because appearances matter and puts on a good show because it hopes for some applause in the end.
Courage motivated by pride rather than love eventually shows its true colors and falls on its face.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
When your life calls for courage–and it will…probably today or tomorrow–don’t try to muster it up by stroking your ego or appealing to your self-respect. Instead, infuse your trembling heart with courage by reminding yourself how much God loves you (1 John 4:7-14), how much He loves your family (Nehemiah 4:14) and how much He loves the world He has called you to serve (1 John 4:15-21).
Cast your cares and anxieties upon the God who cares for you and He will infuse you with bravery to press on. The sweaty palms, the nervous laugh, the twitching eye…those may not go away, quite honestly. But you will be able to press in, to move forward, to step up, to speak out…because God’s perfect love will cast out the fear and fill you with courage.
Life takes courage. And God’s love supplies it.
For what do you need a little courage today? How will you lay hold of the bravery required to do what you must do?
You might enjoy reading about Joseph, a man of great courage, in my most recent Bible study, Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place. It’s available on Amazon here. Today I invite you to watch a full video of Session Two in two parts: Session 2a and Session 2b. The optional video set is only available here.