Originally published Tuesday, 11 July 2017.
When I first read the book To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite line was, “Courage is when you know you’re licked…but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”
Even young, I knew that was…optimistic. Begin anyway? That’s not a usual suspect for How To Cope When You’re Licked.
Coping usually involves words more like “fake-it-til-you-make-it,” which we all know has its benefits. We like tools that temporarily help us tread water when times get tough.
But, faking is not beginning. Faking is rather more like wandering and wandering and wandering through the wilderness, much like the Israelites, for 40 unnecessary years. Through sputtering starts and stops, the Israelites eventually managed one meaningful step after another, and finally stood before their promised land, having gone all the way.
That is a main difference between faking v. beginning. Beginning testifies that all the way is even a thing.
On the contrary, faking works up a sweat just standing still. Faking is disillusioning and makes all the way sound like a joke.
But there they were, those Israelites.
God had been with them through one thing all the way over to a brand new thing, a land that the Lord their God would care for (Deut 11).. He asked, would they remember Him, the One who had brought them all the way.
Do we? Remember God? All the way? Through the basic bits of everyday life, where no matter which way we juke then jive, it looks like things will not get better. Not really. Not in ways that count.
Sorry, Atticus. Courage is seeing it through no matter what? Who possibly is that optimistic?
In light of the Israelites’ tendency to fake it rather than begin anyway and in light of our own reasonable, rational, suspicions that all the way is elusive, at least as far as we can see – there is a God who hopes on, on our behalf.
He would like to strengthen us to try the same.
“Observe therefore…so you may have strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess...” (Deut 11:8)
God’s antidote for the Israelites’ predilection for living a fake life? Remember.
“Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God; his majesty…”
Not your children. You.
“His mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did…as (your enemies) were pursuing you…”
Not just anybody’s enemies. Your enemies.
“It was not your children who saw what he did for you….”
“But, it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.”
That is not pixie dust or a mantra or a tiny little sheet pulled out of a tiny little cookie. That is not a wish.
That is remembering.
Remembering gives begin anyway something irrefutable.
In the case of the Israelites, they could not un-see how this God had personally involved Himself in their circumstances and also in their hearts.
In the case of us? The Author of the Bible promises the same - a relationship with a God who unapologetically does not tell all, but does want us to see His very personal touch on our lives. He admits the harsh reality of circumstances and likewise affectionately, persistently, beckons us to…begin anyway.
What will happen? The Israelites received little more than, “You’re about to find out.” That led to a rescue from Egypt, manna from heaven and a lot more that their ancestors had never before known.
Beginning is scary. Remembering is hard. That was true for the Israelites. It was sometimes easier to drum up a fake golden calf rather than sticking with God and stepping into the abyss.
Yet, courage is when you begin anyway. It isn’t an easy life, but it mercifully isn’t a fake one.
Begin. Put one foot in front of the other. With Him.
To what end? Try Him, and we’re about to find out.
He wishes we would.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.