Have you ever considered how the moment for courage is a limited window? We regularly think we can wait on a decision and still make a “courageous” choice. And while this is true in some cases, the expiration date on an opportunity to be courageous regularly arrives faster than expected. Courage is a gutsy response to the urgency of the moment. Before we know it, the moment can pass us by.
Deborah’s story in the book of Judges teaches us so much about courage. As one of Israel’s “judges,” she resolved conflicts and disagreements the people brought to her under the Palm of Deborah. (I wish I had a palm tree named after me!) God sends her to a man named Barak, a military leader. She calls him to step up and lead the people to defeat their oppressors, King Jabin and his general, Sisera. However, she quickly discovers Barak to be passive and intimidated; he’ll go only if Deborah goes with him. One of my favorite moments in Deborah’s story is when she says, “Because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” The final resolution of the battle against Sisera is one of my favorite moments in the Bible.
Deborah did not allow her fear nor her inexperience to hold her back from a courageous step forward. She chose to be bold despite Barak’s timidity.
When we were talking about the story of Deborah a couple of years ago, my friend Maxie told me he thinks this story is about how difficult experiences reveal the gaps between who we are and who we want to become. He said, “We learn so much about ourselves from situations we didn’t expect or prepare for.” At this time, Maxie was working a job outside of the career plan, struggling with his inability to do what he loved.
These detours refine our character. We’ve all had moments when an experience produced a stark choice: “Will I respond with humility or anger? Integrity or manipulation? Trust or control? Resolve or passivity?” In Deborah’s story, the choice was, “Will I respond with courage or fear?”
We often make these choices unaware that we are revealing our own gaps and refining our character. We’re simply responding to circumstances we didn’t plan for or expect.
Deborah’s story reminds me of the movie We Bought a Zoo. In the film, a father (played by Matt Damon) is living a life he didn’t plan on living. He’s become a single father, trying to make a fresh start with his children. Amid the adversity of his family experiences, he tells his son, “Twenty seconds of insane courage can change everything.”
The film reminds us that courage is about a quick response to risk in spite of fear and uncertainty. We often envision courage as a prolonged experience of audaciousness and strength, when audaciousness and strength are actually gutsy micro-bursts.
Though Deborah had to continue forward in her decision to lead, her courageous step forward when Barak was timid and passive led her to experience God in an incredible way. Her legacy as a judge had been defined by faithfulness to God amid foreign oppression and domination. She had been the mouthpiece for God among her people. Because she acted courageously, she got a front-row seat to see God show His character as a deliverer.
This kind of courage was embodied in my friend Robert Payne’s life. After producing records for several friends, Robert felt a growing desire to record his own album as a solo artist. But being the father of three small children and working at a church, he didn’t have the money to make it happen.
That is until he discovered Kickstarter.
Robert created a Kickstarter campaign for his album Sunlight with one major caveat—he was donating all the proceeds from the sale of the album! His cause was scholarships for students of Northrise University in Ndola, Zambia.
Robert was unprepared for the push back he received for this move. Many believed he’d never achieve his goal. Several friends capable of making large investments in his project questioned his altruistic approach and doubted his future. Some even questioned why he would give up the opportunity to provide for his family with the proceeds of album sales.
However, within thirty days, Robert received $13,500 on Kickstarter, a record for an Arizona-based artist on the site up to that point. Robert made the album and released it in November 2012. Today students are studying at Northrise because of the people who bought Robert’s album.
It took twenty seconds of courage for Robert to hit “Publish” on his Kickstarter campaign. His courage changed lives halfway across the world. It also took twenty seconds of courage for Deborah to step forward when Barak stepped back. Her nation was freed from twenty years of oppression.
What could happen if you had twenty seconds of courage? How would your character be refined? Where would the gap close between who you are and who you want to be? Could other people’s lives be changed because of your courage?
Life’s biggest opportunities are often the scariest. But if all we need is twenty seconds of courage, then in the time it takes you to tie your shoes, your actions could change someone’s life, including yours.