What does courage look like? We saw it emerge one day before our eyes through the testing and affirmation of our oldest child.
We used to say Rachel, our oldest, was an adult waiting to happen. She was wired responsible.
When she was old enough, she begged to take the babysitter training offered through the city. After that she was ready to hang out her shingle. We thought she needed to practice on her siblings first. That would be a good test of her readiness.
One day we pulled her aside. “Rachel, your mom and I want to go out for a few hours this afternoon. We think you’re ready to babysit. We love you and have confidence that you’ll take good care of your brother and sister.” She beamed, soaking up our approval. We gave her a few instructions and left.
Courage Doesn’t Mean Bossy
When we got home, the three of them met us at the door, all talking at once. Apparently when Rachel had tried to enforce the TV rule, they had argued with her, citing some exception that would extend their time through the next program. She’d held her ground and a fight had erupted–they accusing her of being bossy, she snapping back with “Mom and Dad said so!” It was ugly.
Now we were hearing all three versions. At once.
Mark and I talked. If this was going to work out, Rachel would need more clout. The next time we decided to test drive our new babysitter, we gathered the kids together. Arm around Rachel’s shoulder, Mark said, “This is your babysitter for the day. She’s trained and ready. We love her and have confidence in her. I want you all to listen to her!”
He spoke those words, not just for her siblings, but for Rachel to hear too. Dad’s words of affection became words of affirmation. It made a big difference. After that, her bossiness began to morph into leadership.
Tempted in every way
I keep trying to get inside Jesus’ head as I read the gospels. Since he dared to become human, there is true common ground between us.
What happened during the week between Peter’s confession and the Transfiguration? He faced the necessity of his death and resurrection squarely. And he tried to get that message across to the disciples. Both events must have been difficult, even painful.
Was he tempted in any way by either of these events? You bet. In every way you or I would have been tempted. Tempted to fear. To frustration. To doubt. To exasperation. To weariness. To unbelief. He fought each temptation so that it never crossed the line into sin. But he needed to hear the Father’s voice. So he went up the mountain to pray.
Words of Courage
Luke tells us that it was while he was praying that his face and clothes became luminous. His prayer retreat, a normal activity for Jesus, had become something else–both for his benefit and for the disciples.
At the baptism his Father had spoken these words audibly, “You are my Son, my Beloved. With you I am well pleased.” They were addressed to Jesus, but intended to be overheard by all who were beside the Jordan that day. The Father spoke words of affection and approval. He blessed the Son. The Son left the Jordan for the wilderness. During the time of testing those words would ring in his ears.
Now on the mountain top the Father speaks, “This is my Son, my Beloved. Listen to him!” These words are addressed to the listeners, overheard by Jesus. They lodged in the hearts of the disciples, changing their mood from easy banter to serious and silent wondering.
But they also must have lodged in the heart of Jesus, strengthening him against the temptations that would dog this part of his path. They were words of affirmation, confirming his calling, conferring courage both to speak of the cross and to go to the cross.
If Jesus, then me.
Because Jesus became human, I get the opportunity to see what it looks like to live weak in flesh and strong in faith. If he needed to hear from the Father on his mission, then I do, too. It’s that simple. But what is the Father saying to me?
Because Jesus is my Savior, I’m now a son, too. Yes, a son, because sons inherited in those days, and Scripture says I am an heir of Christ, according to Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” I’m in the family!
That means when I hear God say, “This is my Son, my Beloved. Listen to him!” I can apply those words to myself. The Father loves me. As I go into my day, I’m his Beloved. The Father has given me work to do today and I have his authority behind me. I need these words to lodge in my heart, so that when I discipline my children or manage my project or share Christ with a friend, I have his confidence at the core of my being.
The courage meant for his Son is meant for all of his beloved children.