Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Courage of Gandalf (is the courage to wait)

Wait for it....
"I would have fainted if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in my life. Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord." Ps. 27:13-14

We often equate courage with bravery and get nowhere because the two are synonyms. It is another dead-end tautology. The older (and truer) meaning of courage had to do with endurance. "Guts," as C.S. Lewis called it. Guts to endure, to hang on through the assault, through the storm, through the siege and the struggle. It has nothing to do with winning; the brave do not always win. Rather, it has to do with not giving in, to reach your breaking point and not break.

This is the meaning behind that strange aside Paul makes in Ephesians. After taking over five chapters to assert the romantically heroic image of our oneness in Christ, how God sees us in Him, how He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing so that we may edify the Church and do battle along side Him against the forces of spiritual darkness---after this vigorous onslaught, there comes an odd punctuation: "and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13). It is as if victory is not the point. It is already won in Christ (I Cor. 15:57), but it is not the point. Endurance is the point. Holding on. Standing strong. Not moving forward but neither moving backward. Like Gandalf on the bridge of Khazad Dum, we stand as "a wizened tree before the onset of a storm." We cannot move, but they shall not pass.

This is why Psalm 27 equates courage with waiting on God. Waiting is the frustrating thing, the annoying thing, the gnawing, agonizing thing, but it is the courageous thing because it is the epitome of endurance, of hope, of faith. We wait and do not faint because we believe, not only that God is good, but that we will see His goodness with our own eyes, that we will taste it with our own lips. We believe in this hope, the hope of His goodness, of His promise to work all things out to our good. So we have courage: we wait. We endure, and in the midst of it all we find that God strengthens our heart for the endurance, because His goodness comes to those who wait.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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