This week’s featured ROOM contributor is Cassie Murray. Currently Cassie is serving as one of our interim country directors for Honduras alongside her husband, Kyle.
“You are so brave,” Jack said.
We, just moments ago, had put our toes into the chilly,early April waters of Florida. He had convinced me, as only a son can convince his mother, to continue wading deeper. At this point, we were up to my knees and he was trying to encourage me to go deeper.
“You are so brave,” he said.
Immediately my brain was flooded with the chilly thoughts of the day before…the day that we boarded an airplane and left Honduras. I wanted to feel brave, but all I felt was broken. Jack and I continued our battle against the cold waters until we were completely submerged and we were impervious to the ocean’s assaults. We played and laughed, and Jack thought his mother was brave.
I loved that moment.
I still hear his little voice in my head telling me that I am brave. When I think of those words, tears sting my eyes because I want it to be so true. I’ve thought about bravery so much since that day…I have this habit of over-thinking, over- analyzing, over-understanding anything and everything that comes into my mind…and this concept of bravery is no different.
For Jack, bravery means not being afraid. When I dared to enter the icy-cold water with him even though our toes, legs, bellies, and arms begged us to run the other way, he viewed my act based on a lack of fear of the consequences…but the reality is that the fear of consequences is oftentimes the motivation for bravery.
In this case, the thought of not entering those waters with my most sensitive son meant choosing sadness over motherhood…over him.
I didn’t want to go. I didn’t feel like playing. My heart was broken. But I was afraid that choosing sadness would lead him to feel the brokenness that I was feeling. I didn’t want that for him, so I put my toes in that water and he laughed and called me brave.
When I think a little deeper I realize that the root of all bravery is self-sacrifice. Really, the two words could be synonymous. In a moment, you are choosing what someone else needs over your needs. Devotion to my son made me choose the water. I didn’t feel brave because my mind has constructed some sort of imagining of bravery as something bigger…something grander…something more warrior-esque. But really, there is no greater war than the war against selfishness. No greater victory than choosing others over ourselves. No truer warrior than the ones who set aside their own needs to help another.
I am not brave in the sense that I fearlessly walk into battle completely unaware or unmoved by the cost.
I am brave in the sense that I choose to do those things that I know I am not equipped to do because the thought of what it means for those things to not be done is far scarier.
Over and over again in the Bible we are told to not be afraid.
- The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7 NIV
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
- I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT
- This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
- When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV
- I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NLT
- For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
- Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me Psalm 23:4 NIV
- Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:36 NIV
- One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! Acts 18:9 NLT
In order for God to calm our fears, we first have to realize we have them and I have never been confronted with such an assault of fear as I have on the mission field. I’ve walked my son down the path of anxiety… He has a painting of a castle that is right beside his bed. On the painting, are the words, “the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe.” Each night as he wrestled the fear that tried to overtake his mind, I would point him to the truth that he was safe. I watched him choose faith over fear but I have never had fear like that…Fear that insists on being acknowledged and addressed…but even then, I marveled at his faith. Watching him purposely choose faith because it was the only hope against subduing the Fear that waged war on his mind was inspiring…but, still, I had never known that Fear.
I remember the first night anxiety and panic covered me like a thick blanket while I laid in bed. The days had been long and hard. I went from night-time feedings to foreign hospitals to homework, laundry, and dinner with such a sense of duty that I had barely noticed how out of control I felt.
It should have been no surprise, but it came as a full surprise to me when I laid in bed one night convinced I was having a heart attack. My heart was racing..beating faster than I have ever felt it before…and it was pounding so hard I was convinced you could see it pumping outwardly. Every time I closed my eyes the room would spin…my arms were tingling…my chest ached.
I was afraid.
The weight of life pressed heavy against my chest and instead of calling it by name I called it a heart attack. That in itself only caused the weight to feel heavier, my heart to beat faster, and my mind to spin faster.
This was a moment that I had to learn that I was afraid. My flesh cried out in fear because I had never been so confronted with such suffering. It is strange to be so close to the war between flesh and spirit…in my spirit, I was brave…but my body was exhausted, overwhelmed, and out of control. I struggled with this nightly war of spirit versus flesh for over 6 months…
And then one day Oliver Jack told me I was brave.
Those words washed over my spirit as the cold water cut through my legs and I realized that I do believe it.
Although, I feel broken and afraid, the Lord is my strength. The Lord God is my bravery.
Being afraid doesn’t make me weak. The biggest lie I have ever believed is that Christians are not afraid. I do not have to convince myself to be bigger than the suffering that surrounds or to be unaffected by human suffering. In contrary, the more I am moved by suffering the more my heart bends to compassion. Suffering is scary. Is it even possible to love without compassion?
Bravery and compassion are linked to freedom because it is through both that we find love…and love is selflessness.
We have all these truths in the bible…we hear that God is love in 1 John…we have love defined in 1 Corinthians…we are told that we have freedom in Christ in Galatians…and yet my mind always makes it more complicated. All I have to do is put my faith in my only hope bigger than the fear…
You can read more from Cassie on her personal blog page The Murray Family Blog.