“There is a piece of every man’s heart that longs to be courageous.” That was the theme of a men’s retreat that I facilitated last fall, something that required little courage on my part since all I really had to do was start and stop a DVD player. The quote is from “Stepping UP,” by Dennis Rainey, and his call to live courageously has been howling in my head every day since the retreat.
That call isn’t a new thing. I remember lying in my bed when I was no older than 9 or 10, dreaming up scenarios where the world around me fell apart and I stepped up to save the day. The solutions usually involved weapons. Even as a young boy I longed to be the hero.
It hasn’t changed. I still want to be the hero and I still have dreams of saving the day. I’m more realistic about methods or weapons, nowadays, and I’m pickier about which battles I’ll engage, but I still long to be the hero.
As an adult, I have a long list of things I wanted to do but waited to do until I was ready, meaning I waited until I was fit enough, skilled enough, or geared-up enough. Which also means, I never did most of them – at least the physical ones. Before I reached the “enough” level my knees gave way to arthritis and, it seemed, I lost my turn.
To give one example, I never attempted a 100-mile trail run, even though my heart was pulled strongly in that direction. I didn’t think I was ready, and I was afraid of failing in front of the people I love. But isn’t that the point of attempting things bigger that we are? Aren’t we at least partly drawn in by the uncertainty of success? Isn’t that what makes it courageous?
I’ve never spent much time or energy looking back over old decisions with regret, but I do spend a lot of time wondering if it’s possible to live differently going forward? Can I be more courageous during the upcoming second half of my life (assuming I live to 120, which I do)?
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, and she gave this challenge: Live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear. I asked myself, how might living with more curiosity show up? What would I do differently?
Well, regarding writing, I would write more boldly to see what comes out rather than worry so much whether anyone reads it or people think it’s childish.
With music, I would dive directly into jazz and volunteer for every turn at a solo instead of planning and scheming until my attempts are foolproof and certain.
With backpacking, I’d go deeper into the mountains on longer trips. I’ve already started dreaming of a Colorado Trail hike in 2017. Want to join me?
I would enter bigger and longer bike races. I might join the 100K club ride next week, even though the furthest I’ve ridden since knee replacement surgery is half that distance.
What about that 100-mile trail race? I’m not sure. As my recovery from surgery progresses I don’t know how much I’ll be able to run. And walking 100 miles is even more daunting than running. However, I don’t want to waste another turn, so I’ll keep dreaming.
What do you think? Are you interested in living more courageously this year? Do you have a list of things you’ve been putting off until you’re ready?
Bob Goff says heaven’s leaning over the rails wondering if we’ll be as courageous as God thinks we are.
We should get started.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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