Courage and the Gift of Fear
Life often presents challenges that require us to step out of our comfort zone. We use our courage to accomplish this. That does not mean we don’t feel fear. However, we are able to recognize that as Divine beings we have everything we need to accomplish the tasks placed before us. Feeling fear does not mean we are flawed or lacking something. Fear is a signal to take action. What type of action can only be answered from accessing the wisdom within. Being courageous is acting even though we are afraid. (For the adults reading this, only do it anyway if you desire to do it. If you are feeling fear, AND have no desire or motivation to take action then by all means don’t do it! Afraid of stepping on the elevator and no desire to get on it either, listen to yourself and wait for another elevator car, wait for a friend, call security, take the stairs, etc. Listen to your inner wisdom. However, if you have a desire to move forward but fear is saying don’t – listen to your desire, not your fear. Your desire is your inner wisdom. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s description of inviting fear to travel with you but telling fear it no longer gets to drive or have any decision-making powers. To me this is a perfect representation of asking fear what message it has to tell me, but I’ll decide what action to take based on that information.)
The bible is full of stories were Jesus was afraid of what was coming next and asked God to provide another way. However, he moved forward to face that challenges, using his courage. He had the wisdom of knowing it was all part of God’s plan. Facing something unknown, or facing something we know will be difficult, is when we really need to draw on the courage we have inside. For kids that unknown can be reaching out to sit with someone new instead of staying safely with their usual group of friends. It can be riding the escalator or sleeping in their bed alone. We don’t want to tell them there is nothing to be afraid of – because then we are telling them not to trust their inner wisdom. Instead we want to remind them of the benefits of taking action even though they feel fearful. We also want to reassure them that they are strong and remind them to tap into that inner courage and feel God’s strength coursing through their body. As in this week’s story, we often forget how courageous we really are.
Story: Courageous Corrie
He’s so brave! Corrie thought with an envious sigh. She was watching her older brother practice for his skateboard competition, and she could hardly believe her eyes when he flew up in the air and landed on the concrete ramp — all with a big grin on his face. Corrie’s brother had offered to teach her some skateboard tricks, but she had turned him down. She knew she wasn’t brave enough to do anything so daring and scary. Corrie was happy to see her cousin, Alexandra, running down the sidewalk toward her, waving and smiling. Alexandra was coming to Corrie’s piano recital, and they were going to get ice cream afterwards. “Are you nervous about the recital?” Alexandra asked, a bit out of breath from her run. “I’ve been practicing every day, and I don’t even have to look at the music anymore. And Mom took me over to the hall to practice on that piano too, so I don’t think it will be too bad. At least I get some cookie dough ice cream after!” Corrie’s calm answer impressed Alexandra, who had cried at her last piano recital.
As they got in the car, Corrie’s mom explained that the piano teacher had called to tell them the recital was moved because of some plumbing problem in the building. They were meeting the other students at a different place and everything was going to be fine, so Corrie shouldn’t worry. The new place was nothing like the hall where Corrie had practiced. There was red carpet everywhere, and the piano was set up on a high stage. The students had to walk up six steps to get up there, and the piano was big, black, shiny, grand — nothing like the warm, wood upright she was used to. When the teacher called her name, his voiced echoed in the huge room and Corrie felt very small. But she held back the prickly tears that were behind her eyes and focused on the music. Later, at the ice cream parlor, Alexandra kept saying, “Wow! You didn’t even mess up once! That stage was so huge — and you didn’t even act scared at all! Wow!” Corrie knew she had been really scared, but she just wanted to have ice cream and forget about it.
So when her mom handed her the cone, she was dismayed to see two scoops of mint chocolate chip, not the cookie dough flavor she had been looking forward to. Her parents were talking and didn’t notice Corrie’s problem with the ice cream. She didn’t want to be whiny, but she really wanted cookie dough. The ice cream counter was so tall; Corrie could just see the head of the clerk behind it. She walked over and stood there, hoping he would notice her but feeling too shy to say anything. He looked down and smiled. “Can I help you?” he said kindly. “I think there was a mistake because I got mint chocolate chip and it was supposed to be cookie dough. Could you change it, please?” She spoke softly but politely. “I’m sorry — my mistake! I’ll get you cookie dough right away.” The clerk made the scoops extra big and handed the cone to Corrie. Alexandra was amazed. She had never spoken to a store clerk in her whole life. “Wow! You’re so brave. Wow,” she said between licks of her orange sherbet.
The girls were playing outside with Corrie’s kitten, Sunshine, later that afternoon. The kitten was still pretty small and a little scared of new things. Suddenly, a noisy truck went down the street and the kitten bolted into the closest hiding place — through a hole under the stairs to the dark space under the front porch of the house. Corrie was horrified and ran inside to get her mom. Her mom brought cat food and reassured the girls that the kitten would come out. But the kitten was really scared and didn’t even come out for special tuna treats. Her mom crawled under the porch as Corrie and Alexandra waited anxiously. Corrie almost cried at the thought of Sunshine in that dark, spooky place. Her big brother didn’t even go under the porch — he lost his favorite tennis ball under there once and refused to go find it.
Her mom came out looking very dirty and discouraged. “Sunshine is too scared to listen to me; I think she trusts only you, Corrie.” Corrie didn’t hesitate. She knew Sunshine needed her, so she crawled into the dark hole while her mom tried to shine a dim flashlight beam into the shadows. “Sunshine, it’s me!” Corrie called sweetly as she crawled away from the light. Part of her mind noticed the weeds and the damp smell of old wood, the numerous spider webs, and a dusty tennis ball. Two little eyes glowed way back in the corner, and Corrie kept going even though her knees hurt. The kitten suddenly appeared in front of her and crawled under Corrie’s shirt, trembling with fear. Her soft fur tickled Corrie’s stomach. She held the kitten with one hand and awkwardly crawled backwards towards her mom and cousin. “Wow!” was all Alexandra could say.
Later, Corrie’s brother came home from his skateboarding competition. He was proud to report that he came in third place. He looked at Corrie as he said, “Mom, Dad, maybe someday Corrie will be brave enough to learn how to skateboard.” Corrie said, “Maybe,” and tossed him an old, dusty tennis ball.
Affirmation: I meet life’s challenges with inner strength and courage.
Lesson adapted from A JOYFUL PATH: Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds, Year 1 of the Inner Wisdom Series