Years ago my boys watched a cartoon by the name of “Courage, the cowardly dog”. It wasn’t a favorite of mine, in fact, I preferred they not watch it, but my husband found it hilarious so the boys were permitted to and came out no worse for the wear.
This morning as I contemplated the word courage two things came to mind…..first the Word of God…..be strong and courageous and second this silly cartoon. I did a word search in my concordance for courage and was surprised the verse that truly resonated in my heart was from 1 John 2:28…”And now dear children remain in fellowship with Christ so that when He returns you will be full of courage and not shrink back from Him in shame”.
Remain in fellowship…..what a vivid reminder that God does not desire for us to walk out our lives, our own stories within the greater one alone. His desire is we walk out our stories in fellowship, first with Him and also with each other. This, my friends takes courage and more importantly builds courage.
Courage the cowardly dog lived with his human parents, Festus and Muriel who for reasons unknown to me always seemed to be attacked by some alien force. The attack however was not an all out, obvious attack. It was an attack that would wiggle its way into their home on the premise of something good or interesting. Hmmmmm, does that sound familiar? How many times has the enemy wiggled his way into your home, your life? Courage the dog could see right through the schemes but Festus and Muriel of course fell for it every time. One would think after 500 episodes of this occurring over and over the poor dog, who normally cowered at every sound would have decided to find a new home, one not so prone to alien attacks, but not Courage. His love for the strange old couple kept him from running away, and it was his love for them that at the climax of every episode turned him into the hero. He chose to remain, to remain in the fellowship of the strange family he clearly loved, Courageously fighting whatever alien force had befallen the strange old couple and miraculously saving their lives at the last minute. Courage the Cowardly Dog would suddenly, albeit reluctantly live up to his name by choosing to stay, choosing to fight off the aliens and choosing to remain in fellowship with his family. Though the beginning of each episode would feature Festus shaming Courage for some rule violation, in the end Courage would show his true colors and any shame would magically disappear as Festus and Muriel celebrated his courage.
Do you ever feel like Courage the dog, shamed by others for rule violations? Shamed by yourself for perceived failings? Does your heart hang with a heaviness you don’t believe could ever be removed, not even by God Himself? I would venture to say many if not all of us have felt that way at some point in our lives. Shame, my friends is self-imposed, it is others-imposed, it is NEVER God imposed, no matter what! When shame is hidden, when it is stuffed to the bottom of our hearts and souls it eventually wiggles it’s way out, slithering into our lives like a sneaky snake. Sounding familiar again? The enemy sneaking in before we know what hits us?
What is our guardian against this sneak attack? His Word tells us plain and simple….remain in fellowship with Me, you will be full of courage. Fellowship with God is first but it includes fellowship with others, those who follow Christ AND those who do not. Remaining in fellowship takes courage and courage comes through honesty, through a willingness to share our story, to share a piece, a part or even a whole of oneself with another searching soul. To be willing to take the risk of sharing. When we courageously share our own stories of shame and fear it is then we can also fully share our own stories of redemption, love and grace. It is then that our own inward cowardly dog turns into a courageous beauty, full of Gods love and able to drive back the enemy with a strength we never realized existed.
Remain in fellowship my friends, find a safe community, a place where you can courageously share your story surrounded by the love of Christ. As you gain courage by sharing in this, your safe place, your courage will be blessed by God and one day you will find it was present all along. Who knows, He may then lead you to share outside of your community in order to reach others for His kingdom. But for now, trust Him for that courage, one step, one second, one minute, one hour at a time and just as our children grow seemingly before our very eyes, so will your faith and courage.
This day my friends I bless you with strength and courage in the precious name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen