The third C word from HopeWritersLife to inspire writing is COURAGE. The first story that came to my mind was about a course I took in college called the Sociology of Deviance. The course taught me a lot that is relevant for current events, such as studying restorative justice as opposed to punitive justice. I especially remember the psychology experiment where students were randomly assigned roles of prisoners or guards. The longer they acted out the roles, the more they developed the mentalities associated with those roles. What brought the course to mind, however, was the assignment we were given to do something deviant ourselves and write a paper about our experience. I had the hardest time even thinking about what to do. I finally decided to open an umbrella in an elevator. My professor was not impressed, yet little did she realize how much courage it took for me, a “little Southern girl” to break the rules of umbrella etiquette.
But there have been times when I have mustered up the courage to move out of my comfort zones. One of those was heading off to college in New England which had been all-male up until a few years earlier, despite advise from my high school teachers not to go there. My next academic choice was to attend Divinity School where I was told almost weekly that women could not be ministers. Law School was my mother’s dream for me, but I met with the same kind of discouragement. One attorney I know told me to pursue being a legal secretary. Some male students expressed the opinion that all female attorneys and law students were ugly women with grudges. Still I pursued these goals. I dreamed of my Ordination the way some people dream of their wedding day.
After Ordination, I still faced the rejection of churches. “We like you, but we don’t think we are ready for a woman minister.” Then I received a call to be senior minister of a wonderful little church in my area. On my first Sunday to lead, I remember so well the near panic that came over me. This wasn’t guest preaching! This wasn’t student preaching or youth Sunday! These people were counting on me to lead them spiritually. How could I go up there?! Suddenly, the words that I had heard when I was struggling with the Call to Ministry came to me again: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
How often have I called upon that grace! I am only too aware of my faults and the messiness of my life. And how often have I seen that grace at work! Somehow, through my imperfect self, the love and acceptance of Christ has shown through. One Sunday, I realized that God works in ways through us that transcend us. A woman who had suffered through much abuse from others and from her own self joined the church. She would say over and over again how she never planned to go to a church, but she came and I said something that spoke to her. Only no one else, including me, remembers me saying it!
What gives me courage? The love and grace of God that can do so much more than we can ever imagine. Others may criticize or discourage or discount us, but God sees our potential and multiplies what we offer. Take Heart! Have Courage! Do not be afraid! How many times can you find these words in the Bible? When you discover how many, let it sink in, and step out in faith and courage. God bless you!