The Little Squirrel That Would: A True Story Of Courage
Courage isn't about having no fear, but moving forward even when you are afraid. Everyone is afraid, but not everyone is courageous. Here's a cute story about something my husband and a furry friend did during the quarantine that illustrates what I mean:
Our small home on Lake Norman is my favorite place to be. I love to travel and see the world when we can; explore and learn all the great things that travel teaches but at the end of the trip I am so grateful to get home. My husband and I built this house in 2007, and it has been the scene of many celebrations, triumphs and laughter. Of course it has also seen its share of sadness and frustration. It is our home and we love it.
During the stay at home orders in North Carolina we, like many, did some things we would not have done without having the opportunity to spend more time at our house. We did some long postponed home improvements and maintenance, cooked recipes we wouldn't have taken time to prepare otherwise, binge watched our favorite old programs, and learned the answer to deep life questions like, "What time does the trash get picked up, anyway?' This is something we never really knew, and now we do. Quarantined and loving it!
But my husband did something truly interesting during these months. And it is my husband that I'm going to tell you about this week. He is a real renaissance man. He can do such a wide variety of things well. He, at 67, water skis on a slalom ski, climbs forty feet in a tree to sit in a deer stand, takes his boat thirty miles and further off shore and catches huge fish. He can fix anything, he loves children, can train animals, and holds a doctorate degree in theology. He has the most generous heart I've ever encountered. He is intelligent without being stuffy. He is a really great guy and we have been happily married for over twenty years.
So one day, during the quarantine, he called to me to come to the sliding door at the deck and watch. I am generally a bit concerned when he says, "Hey! Watch this!" but this time it seemed as though he was at least staying on solid ground. I went over to the door and watched as a squirrel came right up to the door. It stood on its hind feet and put one fore paw across its chest. My husband responded by putting an arm across his own chest. I went to call for professional help. But hubby said, "Be still and watch." So I did. Slowly and quietly, he opened the door handed a fig bar to the squirrel who took it straight from the hand, and then sat six inches away and ate it.
"That's pretty cool." I said. "You've got a yard full of trained squirrels. I'm impressed!" "Not a yard full." Hubby responded. "Just one. This one. The others are too scared. When they get brave enough they'll get fig bars too. But for now, they just get plain bread." I was intrigued. "So you're rewarding courage?" "Exactly." Hmmm. I thought. That really is the way the world works, isn't it? The ones who can face and overcome their innermost fears are the ones that are rewarded with a rich and full life. Courage isn't about having no fear, but moving forward even when you are afraid. Everyone is afraid, not everyone is courageous. Here's what I mean:
The ones among us who overcome the fear of being used, are allowed the privilege of serving God. If we can overcome the fear of being hurt, we have the joy of being truly loved and loving truly in return. When we are courageous enough to allow new people and experiences into our lives we are enriched and our lives are expanded. Courage leads us to welcome people who don't look like us in to our congregations. Courage beckons us to write the book that perhaps no one will ever read. Courage helps us sing the song that touches someone else's heart. And through all of this, the courageous one reaps reward after reward. We are strengthened and emboldened.
Summon up your courage to live boldly. Do the things that scare you. Meet strangers, serve food to the homeless. Tutor foster children so that they can be successful students. Show outrageous hospitality to someone who is new to our country. Love someone else's child. Encourage an exhausted young mother. Sacrifice financially and offer to have a single mother's car repaired. Better still, go in with friends and buy her a safe and reliable car. It takes courage to lay out money like this. Only the brave make our world a better place.
So be the brave squirrel. Be the squirrel that overcame his primal fear of humans and was rewarded for it. There is no great secret to how this is done...you simply say to yourself, "I am terrified, and there is no guarantee that I will succeed but I'm going to do it anyway." It's like the nine year old on the top of the highest diving board at the pool talking himself into jumping. The initial moment is scary, but once he lands safely that kid goes up and jumps again and again and is able to encourage others to come behind and jump too. This is how the world improves. This is how people become more like Christ. Jesus Christ is the essence of courage.
This is the season of Lent. This is the season when we honor Jesus who was alone and afraid in the wilderness and yet he pressed on to the horrors of the cross for us. He was afraid and did it anyway. He did not want to die the cruel death, and yet He did because He knew that the world, you and I, needed salvation. Take this example as a way to live more fully. Selah.