In November, my sister, Nora, gave me this gold feather Etsy necklace for my 28th birthday. She said it was my Courage for 2014.
The Quakers have historically used white feathers as symbols of Peace. In Downtown Abbey, we watch as women (members of the Order of the White Feather) interrupt a benefit concert to hand out white feathers to men who have refrained from enlisting — hence, the antithesis of Courage, being Cowardice.
In the Masaii tribe of Kenya, warriors wear head dresses of birds’ feathers (ostrich plumes and eagle feathers) as highly prized symbols of Bravery. Even their youth will wear a bird’s nest with feathers on their heads as a symbol of Rebirth: inside the nest will grow not only the new hair/feathers of the emerging man, but also the dreams and ambitions of adulthood…
I’ve been wearing my feather necklace for the past several weeks…do I believe that by wearing it, I am somehow made into a more courageous and brave woman, simply by having it on? Of course not.
But, admittedly, the simple act of wearing this physical symbol has brought daily reminders to me to be Courageous.
The other day, I was swimming laps preparing for my next Triathlon, and was thinking, “This is HARD. I am so out of shape!” But, all those summers of my parents making us do swim team, waking up for 5:30a practices, competing against others and being a team-player, cheering for us to swim just one more lap…were instrumental in teaching us to do hard things. And, this is how Courage demonstrates itself – by doing hard things.
Doing hard things means being a Fighter and Survivor. Doing hard things means doing the right thing, even when we don’t want to. Doing hard things means not giving up. Doing hard things means stepping up to the plate and not being afraid to fail or speak your mind or stand up for yourself. Doing hard things means investing, inventing, and investigating. Doing hard things means letting a door that wants to close, close. Doing hard things means sacrificing, and swearing to our own hurt. Doing hard things means keeping your word. Doing hard things means walking through doors that open, even when we are afraid to test it. Doing hard things means claiming Reality and Truth, amidst fleeting feelings. And, these are basic examples of Courage, among so many others…
But, in an age where success is driven by what we DO, and how we are DOING at our careers, and if we are DOING enough, and when we can DO this or that, I am made exhausted. If my 2014 becomes all about DOING things (hard or not), and those hard things define my Courage, I’m already spent.
When was the last time we congratulated Courage as simply Believing…?
Believing, in a world that demands facts and figures. Believing, in a culture that seeks to control our own fates. Believing, in a city where you can only trust yourself and watch your own back. Believing, in a generation that is too impatient to wait. Believing, in an age where Faith has been Forgotten. Believing IN God, instead of ourselves. Believing that God really is alive, and eager to enter into relationship with His creation. Believing that the Bible isn’t just fables and records, but the very words of an Eternal Father.
There is this saying…Good things come to those who Wait. Is it not Courageous to wait – all the while believing – that God really does offer all that is good, pleasing, and perfect? Is it not Courageous to perhaps believe that better things lie ahead, beyond this Life?
I looked up Feather in the Bible. The only thing I could find was this, in Psalm 91:
“He will cover you with his Feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
…He will cover you with his Courage, and under his wings you will find refuge…
…i want to be covered by His Courage this year…i want to find the refuge and solace of God’s faithfulness – a testimony of 28 years during which He has pursued, loved, spoken, and proved to me that He is real and a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Perhaps the greatest Courage comes in the belief that God offers true freedom, apart from works and my performance. Yes, I must continue to DO the right thing in this life, which can be hard. And, DOING these hard things come with courageous costs.
But, DOING these hard things don’t earn His love for me. Doing these hard things aren’t the ticket to blessing. Doing these hard things don’t suffocate me…they don’t disappoint me…they don’t tie me down…they don’t limit my hopes and dreams…they don’t keep me from having fun…they don’t pull me away from joy and laughter and happiness.
Doing the hard thing of believing Him, and all of His promises, quite simply, Free me.
And this is Courage.