For a long time, hearing the word ‘courage’ has touched something in me that I can’t quite explain. It stirs a desire to step out, to challenge myself, and to triumph over fear in the name of Jesus. Perhaps it simply stems from my need for independence (which I wrote about in my last post), but I hope – I believe – there’s more to it!
My admiration for my namesake has grown so much over last few years – Esther is one of (if not the) most courageous women in the Bible! I once read that although our parents chose our names, they ultimately came from God because He designed the people we would become and knew us even before we were conceived (Stasi Eldredge, ‘Becoming Myself’). That really struck me, because it made me consider why I was given my name. For me this brought the realisation that, more than simply admiring Queen Esther and enjoying the story, I’m called to aspire to and embody her courage.
More recently I’ve been considering the huge misconception so many of us have of Mary in this respect. Think of the Nativity story in children’s books – where Mary is portrayed as charmingly and passively accepting the will of God. As attractive as that picture is to a little child, the reality is so much more intense.
In saying ‘yes’ to God, Mary didn’t get a gold crown or even a gold star. She sacrificed her reputation, disgraced her family, and faced daily rebuke, judgement and a very real threat of being stoned to death. And yet she was willing to suffer. She stepped out in the midst of uncertainty and fear to do the work God set before her, even to the point of risking her life. She was a brave forerunner for Christ’s mission on earth. She was the definition of a courageous woman!
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Pope Francis calls us all – men and women alike – to be spirit-filled evangelisers who have ‘the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness’ (Evangelii Gaudium, #259). Our mission as Christians is to bring the joy of knowing Christ to those who haven’t experienced it, and often that will mean standing against things the world values in order to defend the truth of Christ. It’s not an easy job! It demands courage and strength of character. Courageous men restore our faith and lead us towards Christ, but to me courageous women are stunning.
I want to be someone who other people see courage in, and who draws that courage out of others. I see beauty in strength and grace in bravery, and I’m always so inspired when I meet women who show me these things! Our role as women is more than simply accepting and allowing God’s will – it is, like Mary, to actively engage in that will and have the courage to live it out.