Growing up Catholic, my grandmother took me to church every Sunday, and I enjoyed going with her. I also went to Catholic school my whole life. But around my junior year of high school, I began to have questions about my faith. God, in his sovereignty, placed people in my life who were excited about their faith. One of these people was a co- worker, who would talk with me about the differences between religions.
What drew me to him was that, although he did not come from an overly devout background, he read his Bible often and memorized Scripture verses, many of which he recited to me. He invited me to church, and it was there I met a woman who had also been Catholic, and she invited me to her home for a weekly Bible study.
One week, we studied John 3:3: “No one can come to the Father unless he is born again.” After I asked questions about the verses’ meaning, she told me to go home, get out the Catholic Bible that I had received for my confirmation and read the same passage and see if it is the same. And it was. I drew close to God during those several weeks of talking with my coworker and studying the Bible. One day at church, during my senior year of high school with just two weeks before my prom, I went to the altar and gave my life to Him. The same woman who had showed me those Bible verses hugged me with delight and said, “your life’s going to change. You don’t know when, and you don’t know how, but it is going to change.” I didn’t feel any different, so I didn’t believe her at first. But little did I know that the day I accepted Christ, He would be inviting me to live courageously for Him.
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"When I finally did tell people, my parents were furious."
When I gave my life to Christ, I didn’t tell anyone until several months later. When I finally did tell people, my parents were furious. They felt like I had abandoned the family and its traditions, and every interaction ended in harsh words and conflict. We couldn’t speak to each other without an ensuing shouting match.
Two years later, I was a sophomore in college and still embroiled in conflict with my parents. In one conversation, I told my mom I could not longer speak to her until she treated me like an adult. Six weeks passed and we stopped communicating altogether. Soon Thanksgiving arrived, and my boyfriend invited me to dinner with his family since I hadn’t heard anything about my family’s plans.
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"Without a word of goodbye, my father threw my bags onto the driveway..."
Two days after I didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, my parents stormed into my workplace and asked me to step outside into the busy plaza walkway. Once outside, my father told me that when I got home, I needed to pack my things and leave my childhood home. They drove me home and when I got there, my garage revealed a neat line of black trash bags filled with stuffed animals, clothes, and the belongings of the first 19 years of my life. I went upstairs to find the remaining unpacked items thrown in a heap on my bed. I crammed them into a few more trash bags and hurried downstairs where my father was tossing the bags onto the truck bed. He tossed the last of my belongings into his truck and we headed to my boyfriend’s house. Without a word of goodbye, my father threw my bags onto the driveway, got in his truck, and drove away, leaving me on my knees sobbing with my entire life in a set of black trash bags.
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"God, in his faithfulness, showed up in big ways after that day."
From then on, I had to make the choice to not just believe who God was, but to live it out everyday, trusting him and allowing him to increase my faith in a day-by-day, moment-by-moment encounter with him.
God, in his faithfulness, showed up in big ways after that day. A married couple with two children with whom I attended church learned of my situation and offered to let me live with them rent-free in exchange for watching their children. I had to withdraw from living in the dorm rooms at college because I could no longer afford it, but my boyfriend found me a car so I could commute back and forth to college. I often had people in my small group pray for me or give me small monetary gifts or gift cards to treat myself because they knew I had been going through a rough time. Through my church’s generous display of hospitality, I understood what living bravely really means.
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Courage and Hospitality
I didn’t know that God would use this event to teach others not only what true hospitality means but also what it means to live with courage. Years later, God called me to begin writing books, and my story became the impetus for my book on the important role hospitality can play in our lives.
Luke 9:1-6 became a verse I lived out: “He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.”
Courage is a part of being a disciple. In fact, it is essential to our growth and development as disciples.
Here are three things I learned about courage and hospitality during that difficult time:
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Living with courage means taking risks.
Hospitality is not just something to tack on to a busy schedule at the end of a long workweek. It’s something we embody – it’s who we are. It’s who Jesus was. Jesus didn’t have a home or a place to offer people to have dinner with him, but he was a master at receiving hospitality from others. He calls us to practice hospitality in our daily lives. From a simple invitation to your home for dinner or meeting the physical needs of a friend, we all can practice the spiritual gift of hospitality.
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Living with courage means asking for help.
The disciples had to believe and trust that God would provide at least some people in the towns to offer their homes and feed them. I lived this out in my life when I had to rely on the generosity of other church members to provide for my physical needs and ultimately my spiritual needs as well. It takes courage to be willing to ask for help because it often means laying your pride down in the process.
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Living with courage means living in community.
Even Jesus didn’t conduct his ministry alone. Sometimes He took James, Peter, and John (and other times all 12!). Jesus was often surrounded by other people.
We need our brothers and sisters to spur one another on, to sharpen each other, to bear each other’s burdens, and to encourage each other. Without those church members, I don’t know where I’d be. My boyfriend (now husband) graciously provided a car for me after I had to move out of my dorm because I could not longer afford to live there. Other people from church gave me gifts and money as a show of support.
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"[God is] calling us all to take a step of faith for him."
God may not be calling you to take such an extreme leap of faith as he had called me. But he’s calling us all to take a step of faith for him.
What might God be calling you to do in order to live with courage? What steps do you need to take? Who can you call on for help? Are you living in the community that is necessary to live the courageous life God is calling you to?
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.
Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.
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Originally published Friday, 27 July 2018.