By Kelly Pontsler, Lt. Colonel –
I find myself praying more and more for courage these days. It’s that inner fortitude that allows us to see the danger of the situation just ahead, but still move forward with conviction. It’s a quality that most of us would never admit to having, yet we know it when we see it, and we can always point it out in others.
Are you feeling courageous today?
In a month when, as a nation, we purposefully pause to honor to those who have served our country, the word courage perhaps even understates the commitment to the point of sacrifice required of and freely given by men and women in the line of duty. An annual moment of silence will never be enough to show the depth of our gratitude for their service and their lives.
I am, however, increasingly aware that we live in challenging times. You may have noticed, too. On the one hand, technology makes our ability to connect and communicate an environment of unlimited possibilities. Our smartphone the size of a deck of cards has many times over more sophistication and storage capacity than the computer system that took Apollo 13 into space.
On the other hand, despite all of that technology, the world doesn’t seem to ever become a better place. Children are still going to school hungry, women continue to be battered and abused, men continue to be taken down by addictions and dependencies out of control. The practical, physical needs of the communities we serve continue to outpace the resources we can muster, and it’s exhausting trying to keep up.
So do we give up?
On a recent road trip, I had the chance to listen to the entire first season of the podcast, “Revisionist History.” I loaded it onto my iPod on the recommendation of an officer colleague, and I tell you, it’s terrific! In every episode, Malcolm Gladwell takes a walk back to the past to revisit an event, person or idea, because (as he explains) sometimes the past deserves a second chance. Sometimes we don’t get the whole story in one hearing or one news article. Wider context matters. It can be tempting in our modern world to form a hard and fast opinion about a person or a situation based solely on one sound bite or one tweet. As Gladwell walks through 10 stories, there is no doubting the role of conviction in accomplishment. In his parting comments, Gladwell states his own observation and conclusion that “nothing of consequence gets accomplished without courage.” I have to agree!
As soldiers in this Salvation Army, we don’t give up or give in. We pray even more fervently for courage to do the right thing, the best thing, the necessary thing, God’s thing. Noted composer Eric Ball penned these words:
I pray not for happiness. How can I laugh in a world racked with madness, in the midst of sadness that dulls children’s eyes, and all goodness defies? I must share with my Master His anguish and pain, and seek out the lost, though fearful the cost. He has open’d mine eyes, and mine ears remember yet their cries.
I pray, Lord, for courage. Courage to fight ‘gainst the evils that now surround me, and temptations that would confound me. I’ll bring down mine eyes from the blue of the skies, look clear into Hell with its sin and its lies! And fearlessly challenge so dreadful a foe. No joy that is loss shall turn my glad heart from the Way of the Cross. Naught shall turn my glad heart from the Way of the Cross.
A prayer for courage, a commitment of the heart, an availability to help change the world.
Amen and amen!