Last week, the title of my devotion was “EASY”. Well, I didn’t have an “easy” time finishing it. I just couldn’t “land the plane” or get it together, so I apologize if it was patchy and discombobulated. I can’t believe I spelled discombobulated correctly the first time! SPELL CHECK DIDN’T CORRECT ME! I wasn’t even sure if it was a real word. Sorry, I know I have ADD.
I was trying to make the point that putting ourselves in a position of vulnerability IS NOT EASY! It’s not easy for me. It’s not easy for you. It wasn’t easy for Jesus. Even though we really want “easy”, it’s not realistic or practical to expect it. As much as I would like to crawl under a rock or stick my head in the sand, I really can’t. I have to go to the grocery store. I have to interact with people. I have to have a job to pay the bills. I have dreams. I want to find meaning and purpose in life. I want to have meaningful relationships. I want a “full and abundant” life. It would be nice if UPS would deliver it all, but I have to go out and get it. It’s messy and complicated, and it takes courage to go out and make it happen.
We often define or equate courage with bravery or the ability to do something that frightens us. Having courage doesn’t mean that we’re not afraid. It means that we have found a way around or a way to “push through” the fear to do what we want to do. This is our modern definition of courage. However, I learned today that our word for courage comes from the Latin word “corage”. The first root word “cor” is actually translated “heart”. The second root word “age” means the “act of”, “state of”, or function. So, loosely translated courage is “the state of the heart.” Courage is all about heart, our innermost being, will, and soul. It’s deep!
We all know the greatest commandment that tells us to love the Lord and our neighbors with “all” or with our “whole” hearts. (Matthew 22:36-40) Jesus also said in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full or fullest.” Some translations use the world “abundantly”. However you slice it, Jesus wants our lives and our love to be full or whole, complete, and exceedingly great. He doesn’t want our lives to be superficial and meaningless, lived foolishly in reckless abandon. He wants us to live fully or “whole heartedly”, deep down to the core of our innermost being, heart, and soul. I know that sounds ominous and you may be like, “Hey Robby, take it down a notch dude. Does that mean everything has to be deadly serious?” Of course not, I’m pretty sure joy, fun, and laughter are all included with the “abundant living package”.
What if we are able to have the courage to live for God wholeheartedly, to live out our passions and dreams with our whole hearts? We have heard or read stories of about people who have said they have “never felt more alive” than we they went skydiving or some other death defying activity. Now, I’m not saying we need to go and jump out of a perfectly good airplane to feel more alive. I have NO desire to do that! I am not an adrenaline junkie. If there is an “adrenaline junkie gene”, I didn’t get it. But, how many times have I missed out on great experiences that God had in store for me because of fear?
I have taken youth groups on Mission Trips for many years to inner cities in the U.S., Jamaica, Trinidad, and Mexico. The ones outside the US were the most challenging. For 7 years I took groups to Jamaica visiting orphanages, aids hospices, handicapped children’s homes, youth prisons, and doing vacation bible school in a fishing village. Even though I had years of experience doing mission trips, it was still very challenging and nerve racking. Taking 17 teenagers out of the country on a plane and passing through customs in a foreign country is a huge responsibility. I was nervous, especially the first year we went. Dozens of parents entrusted the lives of their kids to me. I had a lot more to worry about than my own vulnerability.
It would’ve been easier to avoid all that and just take them to a water park for some fun, but I wanted to provide a challenge and an opportunity for these kids to experience something new. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. I mean, we were in Jamaica.
This opportunity would give these kids and other adult leaders a chance to experience a foreign culture, to broaden their horizons, to stretch their character, to develop deeper courage, and to share their faith. Telling people about Jesus and sharing the Gospel with total strangers can be a very uncomfortable, almost terrifying, experience.
Going to Jamaica for the first time was not just traveling to a “foreign” country. The whole experience was “foreign”. The people, culture, food, transportation, and communication were all very different. It was a challenge and required courage to:
- Walk into a village and lead vacation bible school to people we didn’t know and could barely understand.
- Walk into an aids hospice to talk with and hold hands with patients who were dying of an incurable disease.
- Walk into handicapped children’s home to interact with children who were suffering from severe physical and mental disabilities.
- Walk into a youth detention facility. Enough said.
These weren’t “easy” places to walk into and engage. Was I nervous or afraid? You bet I was. But, I know as a leader that you’re not supposed to “let them see you sweat”. I had to be calm and appear courageous. If I expected the group to follow me through the door, I had to hop to it. I couldn’t hesitate. I know I may seem like I’m an extrovert, but I’m really not.
The kids were never in danger. They were well protected. I had several adult leaders that included our “missionary guides” from Youth With A Mission (Missionary Organization). It wasn’t “all work and no play”. We mixed in some fun with the ministry activities. There was a good balance. We were able to go back to the Missionary base to relax, but the experience was definitely a test of courage and endurance. We experienced the full gambit of emotions. For most of the kids and adults it was a “life changing” experience, including me. We got to meet some wonderful people and see the world and life from a whole different perspective.
If you look on my Facebook page, my banner is a picture from one of those trips. Even though Facebook keeps telling me that I need to update my picture, I don’t want to change it. My experience was that meaningful. I don’t want to forget it. I have never felt more alive and ON THE EDGE than in those moments.
What if I would’ve chosen not to do these trips? What would we have missed? We chose to engage in the arena and the Lord provided abundantly. We left that Island exhausted but filled to overflowing. It was a “whole hearted” experience.
I wished I could say that I was completely fearless and never missed an opportunity to experience God’s abundance, but I can’t. There are plenty of times I have opted out when I should have been “all in”. I battle with fear, insecurity, trust issues, and social awkwardness as much as anyone else. This devotional encouragement is as much, or more, for me as it is for you.
May the Lord give us all the courage to live “whole heartedly”, and in His full abundance. Amen.
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management