Responding to Uncertainty
Uncertainty is difficult. It is a state of mind for which I have a new respect, as my wife has recently survived multiple hospitalizations due to brain cancer, seizures, and strokes. I don’t know if tomorrow will bring victory or catastrophe—but my response will always be the same: How can I best serve my wife and the people in my life on this particular day?
Sometimes this requires courage—and when we don’t think we have courage, we can act as if we do. In my younger days, I used to do theater, in which I’d have to act as if I were a certain character, to try to become that person, if only for a moment.
I found this skill could be applied to life: If I didn’t think I had enough of a certain strength or virtue, I just acted as if I did. In the case of courage, I could envisage my father, who survived the great depression and an alcoholic father, and raised his seven children on an uncertain income. He survived combat in Okinawa in World War II, and multiple strokes that left him speechless for his last seven years. He lived his life with grace and composure, and never complained. So, when my time of testing was upon me, I would ask myself, what would my relatives do? If I couldn’t draw on relatives as models, I could visualize a character played by Gregory Peck, Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, or some other person who embodied in my mind the necessary courage.
If you do this and it works, a little miracle happens. Because you actually did it, you discover that you did in fact have the courage deep inside—much like the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz discovered he had courage inside himself.
Many years ago, I created a website called “Posters from the Heart.” Some of the posters I created were on the subject of courage. Some of the quotes I used were:
From Anaïs Nin:
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” So, if you find the courage to do what life is calling you to do, you will have an incredibly rich life.
Amelia Earhart said:
“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.” If you can’t find the courage to rise to the challenge, you will have a hard time finding peace.
William Blake said:
“Why stand we here trembling around calling on God for help, and not ourselves, in whom God dwells, stretching a hand to save the falling man.”
On another poster, I wrote:
“What all true heroes have in common is a willingness to sacrifice all or part of themselves.”
It’s the sacrifice that we are sometimes afraid of, that keeps us from doing what we need to do, and courage is the virtue that enables us to accomplish the necessary. Freedom is the knowledge of necessity.
Where did Jesus find the strength to face the horrors that were to besiege him? He looked straight to his Father in meditation and prayer. Where will we look for our strength? From whence do we search for our security?
We have many resources in our faith, in our families and friends, and in the incredible histories of great people and the saints. We may need all of them when the time of testing comes for us.