I don’t really resonate with examples of courage that include mountain climbing, wire walking or jumping out of airplanes. I do respect those who have the ability to silence their own common sense so they can choose to push beyond their own limits mentally and physically, but they do not inspire me to exercise my own courage muscles by white water rafting or skiing a double black diamond trail.
I admire those who find themselves in impossible circumstances and survive against all odds. Those stories of ordinary people find their inner greatness in the wake of shark attacks or survive being trapped in a collapsed building after an earthquake remind me that the will to live is a very powerful motivator and makes heroes out of ordinary folk. Their tales remind me a crisis may be the catalyst that ignites the character traits of grit and determination into the ability to act with courage.
I recognize the courage of those who battle life-altering illness with endurance and strength. Though courage is usually defined as the ability to face danger, pain or other threats without fear, most of those I know who’ve endured chemo or surgery or therapy would agree that courage is not a lack of fear, but moment-by-moment battle to master it.
Each of those images above prism courage into its component parts. But today, I recognize that courage a composite of all of those parts, because yesterday I watched a young woman who’d lost her child at age 20, then, shortly thereafter, the next 11 years of her life. Michelle Knight, one of the three young women who’d been imprisoned, raped, beaten and starved for 11 years – nearly 4,000 days – faced the warped monster who’d done this to her in court during his sentencing, and then sat through his hour-long justification of his behavior. I don’t know how she did it. I simply can not fathom it. The other two young women who’d been held captive with her, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, were just as brave as Knight for sending family members to read their words in that courtroom yesterday.
When the three of them shared this video with the world just under a month ago, I watched it again and again:
That they survived their ordeal is beyond comprehension. As the days turned into years in their prison, how did they keep hope alive? How did they have faith enough to take the next breath for 4,000 days, or in the number of days (not so much less that) DeJesus and Berry each were shackled in the dungeon? Trust enough to say, as Knight did in this 7/8 video, “We need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control…we need to rely on God as being the judge”?
I don’t have the right words for the prayers my soul offers on behalf of these women. Like most all who’ve followed their story, I am grateful to God that they’re alive, along with Berry’s daughter born in captivity, and I long for his healing, restoration and shalom to flow into their lives. But the words feel shallow, forced. Not enough.
Not nearly enough.
But I can honor their experience in some small way in my life by allowing their story to challenge me to the kind of courage that endured. And took the next breath.