Courage

What does real courage look like to you?

To me, right now, it looks like a sister-in-law who is going through cancer treatment for a second time in 10 years.

It’s knowing the suffering she’s sure to face during the treatments, and choosing to go through them anyway, because the desired result is the best for those she loves.

Even though she’s near the end of her chemo treatment, the suffering is still real.  And intense.

Where does courage like that come from? Knowing her deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ, the easy Sunday-school answer is readily apparent.

But that’s only part of the story.

For faith to mean anything in our lives, we have to allow our faith to move us to a conviction to act.

Once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen. — Muhammad Ali

It’s on us to incorporate our faith into our lives. And the conviction that grows out of living out our faith — that we’re doing the right thing — leads to courage.

I can do all things through Jesus Christ, who strengthens me.  — Phillipians 4:13

My sister-in-law is living this out beautifully, today, right now.

By the way, haven’t we heard another story about someone who knew the suffering he would face, and yet chose to endure that suffering because the end result was the best for those he loves?

Yeah, I thought so.

 

Real Power

“We’re moving your daughter back to the ICU.”

What?!? Why?

The call on my cell phone shattered our somewhat peaceful dinner at the Med Center’s cafeteria with dear friends. We ran back to her hospital room as quickly as we could.

We had watched her get sicker all day long, with no idea why. Extreme lethargy, no appetite, and then vomiting.  It was less than a week after her traumatic brain injury, and it was imperative to keep her calm and quiet, to reduce the risk of further brain bleeds.

After the bout of vomiting, when she was again calm and resting, we took the opportunity to get something to eat in preparation for yet another long night.

While we were gone, the nephrologist (kidney doctor) made her rounds, took one look at our daughter’s lab results over the course of the day, and ordered an immediate transfer back to ICU. My phone rang at dinner with the news.

Praise God for excellent doctors. That doctor saved her life that night.

It’s common for head injury patients to experience a “sodium crash,” where the body’s sodium (i.e., salt) levels drop to where the body can’t function. Too little sodium, and like my daughter, you get really sick.

Brain seizure-type sick. Had that happened, she likely would have died.

And all because her bloodstream had slightly less salt than normal. Things can start happening even with a small drop out of the normal range.

Now that’s power. Like a single candle illuminates an entire dark room, just a little salt can determine life and death.

As the Creator of the Universe, Jesus knew this. But the science of his day didn’t yet fully understand the role of salt in the human bloodstream, so I’m not surprised that he didn’t use this medical analogy when talking about salt in Luke 14:34. Would’ve gone right over their heads.

But as a 21st Century father whose child has experienced a “sodium crash,” the point is not lost on me.

Just like salt, followers of Jesus Christ can have a big impact everywhere God has placed them. But, if they let the world take away their witness, the impact is lost, and the world is a little sicker for it.

Of course, getting my daughter’s sodium levels back to normal wasn’t as simple as feeding her more salt. After a complex medical procedure and the infusion of more powerful saline solution directly into her bloodstream, in a couple of hours she was much better, alert and calm.

And best of all, hungry.

Overcoming What Overcomes Us

Just a few thoughts while I’m waiting to go help take care of the toddlers at church this morning.  It’s our week, but my wife was called in to work at the last minute, so it’s just me.  Great training to be a grandparent…but I hope they have some reinforcements should the natives become too restless!

We live in a society that’s prone to addiction.  Not necessarily to illegal things, just to allowing things to take roles in our lives that are larger than what is good for us.  The Apostle Peter, that brash, strong-willed leader of the disciples who followed Jesus, had a stern warning regarding this: “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19b ESV)

Most people who are addicted deny that they have been “overcome” by an addiction. Anybody who looks at my waistline and my checkbook can see what I am addicted to.  And yet I lived for years — decades, in fact — where I believed it wasn’t that bad.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was enslaved to food (and to Diet Coke).  And yet, I was.

But as I read Peter’s warning this week in preparation for our Life Group study, I was moved by Peter’s use of the word “enslaved” (consistent across translations). That is such an emotionally loaded word, as I’m sure it was back then.  Peter’s use of that word, to me, indicates just how dire an addiction situation really is.  No one wants to be a slave to anything.  We’re willing to be a servant for something we believe in, but a slave?  So many bad connotations.

So what’s the takeaway from Peter’s thoughts?  To take a realistic look at the problem areas in our lives.  We all know what they are, and everyone has them.  And we don’t even have to ask if we are a “slave” to anything. It’s as simple as this:  Am I overcome by anything?  What would cause major disruptions in my life if I had to give it up? Do I believe enough in that thing to be a servant to it? If the answer to that last question is “no,” am I willing to make the next choice to start moving away from it?

The best news?  We don’t have to make that choice alone, or in our own power.  I’ve seen lots of articles lately asking whether following Jesus Christ is too restrictive.  They are all asking the wrong question.  The real question is this:  Where is true freedom found?  The kind of freedom that leads to health, happiness, a spirit at peace, and strong families, things that everybody wants?  It’s found in the One who came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. Not just later. Right now.

Make that next good choice. And feel the chains begin to lift.