Courage and the Crocodile Pit

Courage and the Crocodile Pit May 12, 2017


Is anyone else nervous lately?

I’ve been a little nervous lately.

Alternately angry and nervous, actually, if I’m going to be brutally honest, and angry that I’m nervous all the time, and angry at the people who make me nervous. I wrote a whole post about all the people who are making me nervous the other day, and deleted it. There’s really no point in going into them for the hundredth time.

I keep on trying to feel courageous and think about Sophie Scholl or Saint Demetrius, and quote encouraging things from The Lord of the The Rings, but then I realize I can’t remember if that quote is in the actual book or only the movie and then I think I’m going senile and get even more nervous.

Many people say you should pray the Rosary when you’re nervous,  but honestly, for me, the Rosary is a nervous-making prayer. People who take comfort from it are fine people, but it just riles me up every time.

The Rosary makes me think of watching that cartoon about Fatima at my Granny’s house, and that other cartoon by the same company about Lourdes, and wondering at how truly evil and abusive badly drawn grown-ups can be to cute little girls who have visions of Mary while praying the Rosary. I resolved that if I ever had a vision of Mary while praying the Rosary, I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. I also privately thought that the Blessed Mother could have been a little more proactive about punishing the nasty grown-ups who were so cruel to the children, but I was afraid to admit that to my granny.

Granny also had a video by the same company about Saint Francis, who was also  abused by his bellowing Henry VIII-lookalike of a father with no consequences for said father, but I liked that cartoon a better because there were knights in it. Besides, Francis eventually left home and didn’t speak to his father anymore. She had a video in the same series about Saint Patrick which I thought was stupid, because the druids were such buffoons, and one about Saint Nicholas which scared me because the Roman soldiers were so awful.

Later, my Granny gave me a fifth video from the same company, about Saint Francis Xavier. That one was my all-time favorite. Francis Xavier didn’t pray the Rosary or have scary visions at all in that video. And instead of being slapped around and tormented by mean grown-ups, druids or ancient Romans,  he went to the jungle and befriended an indigenous child with a pet monkey. I’d always wanted to visit the jungle, and to have a pet monkey. Saint Francis Xavier got to put on a kimono and wave a crucifix at the Emperor of Japan, and I’d always wanted to wear a kimono and go to Japan. At the end of the cartoon, Saint Francis Xavier dove into a pit of aggressive hungry crocodiles and came out completely unscathed, clutching a black pearl he’d found– and before anyone asks me, I have no idea whatsoever if that’s an actual anecdote from the hagiography of Saint Francis Xavier. Maybe they made it up. But it was indisputably the most entertaining of the children’s hagiography cartoons. I decided that I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. Missionaries had all the fun.

Say, there’s something we can all do for our nervousness. We can watch cartoons. Improving religious cartoons or just really silly cartoons. I like Bugs Bunny best, what about you?

What else can we do?

Of course, we can pray. We must pray without ceasing whether it calms us or not, but it’s nice when you can find a prayer that helps with the nervousness. Pray Rosary if you like it. I like Chotki and the Small Paraklesis, and Ignatian meditations, and painting icons.

We can be perfectly honest that there’s plenty to be nervous about, and turn our feelings to action if there’s any action we can take.

If you’re not a miserable hack like me who makes a living typing on one, you can turn off your computer for a designated amount of time every day so you won’t see more scary news. You can still be informed if you check in twice a day instead of constantly, in my experience.

We can stop trying to feel courageous, because courage isn’t an emotion. Courage is doing what is ours to do, whatever our emotions. Courage is doing what is ours to do whether or not we look heroic, whether can find a good Lord of the Rings quote or a comforting prayer. In my experience, courage doesn’t usually look heroic or exciting as jumping into a crocodile pit; it’s usually not the topic of children’s hagiography cartoons. It’s a matter of doing whatever is ours to do, every day, whether or not it hurts, whether or not the cause seems hopeless, whether we’re lauded or tortured for it, until we die.

Even when we’re terribly nervous.

If we all strive to do the will of God with courage, some of us will get slapped around by grown-ups and some of us will leave home. Some of us will be knights, some will be shepherds and some will be missionaries. Some will live lives marked by signs and wonders and some will look outwardly as though God never intervenes to help them against their enemies. Some will dive into pits filled with writhing crocodiles. Some will be seen to come out of the crocodile pit unscathed and some will die a martyr’s death down there, battling crocodiles until the end.

And in the end, whatever the outward appearance of our lives, we will all be brought home where our struggles will prove to have been worth it.

That thought doesn’t exactly make me feel fine. It doesn’t really make me less nervous. But it is a good thing.

(image via Pixabay)

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