“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” ~ Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a great example of courage. She was an amazing woman that overcame unmerciful circumstances that would have destroyed a lesser individual. At the age of seven her mother’s boyfriend molested her and her uncles killed this boyfriend as vengeance for what he did to her. She was so traumatized by the incident, she became a mute. Still she became an author, poet, actress, dancer, screenwriter, and most important, a civil rights activist. Courage to overcome was something she found within herself, not something she was born with. As she points out in her quote, we are all born with potential, potential to become more than what we seem to be. The potential she speaks of is potential from our great and awesome God. As Christians we are called to live a life of courage, to overcome our fears and realize that God is in control if we allow His control in our lives. We initiate courage when we overcome our fear and use it as fuel to move us forward. Back in 1972, according to Webster’s, the term “gut check time” was first used and has become a staple in our sports community to express seeing where you are in your courage as a team and an as individual. There are four levels to a gut check; trust, faith, hope, and love.
The first level to gut check time is trust. One example for me in gut check time is driving roads that are icy and difficult to drive on. Here in the mid-south we don’t experience a lot of snow and ice, but when we get it, we are pretty much shut down. My experience with snow and ice removal comes from living 30 years in Chicago. One thing I can say about that town is they know how to safely remove snow and ice to make the roads passable within a two-hour turnaround. Here it seems to be the opposite thought, and the drivers are either too dangerous or too cautious when they drive. The initial level is trust; I trust my driving ability to get me from point A to point B without losing control of my vehicle or loss of life. Also as an added bonus as a Christian, I have God who not only will protect me, but will give me strength with the courage to drive the roads safely and to see the unexpected before it becomes too late. Trust in your abilities and with God can give courage and move you past the fear that can fuel us forward if we channel it correctly.
The next level of gut check time is faith. Faith of course is an antonym to fear. When we take our fear and move forward anyway, that is a leap of faith. One of my favorite courage quotes is from John Wayne, he said, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” That is faith’s forward focus. Though we can’t see the outcome we can move forward in faith that God will protect our choices and keep us on His path for our lives.
Faith’s forward focus gives us our next level of gut check time, hope. There is the hope that the outcome is going to be good. That our path won’t end in failure, but triumph. Stumbling and failing may be along the path, but it’s to teach us and to prepare us for the good that will be at the end of the road. When we place our hope in God, our gut check is going to be very courageous.
The top level of courage is love. When I’m speaking of love, I am talking about the purest love of all and that is unconditional love. Unconditional takes the selfish out of love. Talk about gut check, that means I am putting others needs in front of my own needs. It means I am thinking last about myself and first about others. Being born as selfish and sinful people, we do have the potential for this type of love. As Maya Angelou said in her quote, we will be kind, true, merciful, generous, and honest. The potential for unconditional love gives us those virtues and the guts to move in that direction.
The four levels of gut check time are, first we have trust, we have faith, we have hope, and finally love. As the bible says love is the greatest of all. Love is the highest level of courage and takes some major guts to use it unconditionally, but if you do, all of your relationships, from friend to significant other, will all flourish and will have less theatre. It’s gut check time, and your purpose is in the balance.
© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple], 2011-2015.