Character and Virtue: Courage
Tom Markey
Interim Director of Youth Ministries

At the age of 21, my life was not necessarily going the way I had planned it. Here had been my plan: I was supposed to graduate college, have an illustrious and celebrated professional soccer career, and then become a pediatrician.

Here was my reality: I had transferred schools, I was planted firmly to the bench, getting no playing time at all, and I had no desire to take another science class ever again. Oh, and I was living with my parents. So, like any well-adjusted and emotionally mature 21-year-old, I decided that the solution to my problems was to get some tattoos. I had no idea what I wanted permanently etched onto my skin, so I began to peruse my room. Much of my room was littered with items from my childhood. That’s when it happened. I came across the Bible that had been presented to me at my confirmation service when I was a Niner at Second. The verse chosen for me was Joshua 1:9, “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“That’s it!” I thought to myself. “That’s what I’ll get a tattoo of!” Sure enough, within a few days, I found myself at the tattoo parlor getting Joshua 1:9 tattooed on my wrist.

Years later, it is always interesting to reflect on that story. It was certainly a time in my life where my heart, soul, and mind were prone to wander and wonder – I felt bewildered, unsure, and unsettled. I was feeling anything but courageous, alone in my own thoughts of failure and frustration. I can imagine that we’ve all been there. And yet, as we reflect on this passage, notice that it doesn’t say, “Be strong and courageous, and go do this on your own.” No, repeatedly, the author of Joshua is telling us that strength and courage are not acts that require our effort alone. In fact, we cannot do it alone.

God will be with us. God will not fail us. God will not forsake us. God is with us wherever we go.

Perhaps this reality might help us revive and rescue our understanding of what it means to be courageous. Rather than being an act simply associated with some profound level of Herculean effort and heroism, perhaps courage is an acknowledgment of our inability to do it alone, an acknowledgment that we cannot and should not do it alone.

Courage comes not through wearing capes, brute strength, or some puffed up bravado. Courageous living is simply that – it is living. Courageous living is entering into the world, engaging with life, and experiencing both the beauty and brokenness of what it means to be human, all the while trusting and believing that God is with us wherever we may go.