The Year of Living Courageously



By Amanda Cleary Eastep

I’m a little afraid to write the words.

Be. Courageous.

Writing those words in my journal means I can’t tell God it was only a fleeting thought.

That I was “writing drunk,” as Hemingway said, and planned to edit sober later.

And I can’t blame someone else. No one’s handwriting is that bad.

But it’s the theme I’ve been contemplating for the new year. In 2013, I began the practice of choosing a theme to live by instead of making resolutions.

Yes, it’s already March. No one is blogging about their resolutions or goals or laser-focused  “one words.”

That was SO two months ago.

I’ve been procrastinating. I mean, who am I to choose “be courageous”?

I married a man who lived in India, who survived riots and backyard cobras and Mumbai traffic.

I have a daughter, who at 18 is preparing to leave for North Africa when she should be shopping for a prom dress.

But the two words keep haunting me.

And if I don’t give them physical form, they’ll take matters into their own hands and rise from the ground like some folkloric golem and track mud on my carpet.

So what does being courageous look like?

Nelson Mandela said it was triumphing over fear

Winston Churchill said it is what it takes to stand up and speak and sit down and listen

John Wayne said it is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway

Courage calls you to act. 

If you can do the thing without trembling or throwing up in your mouth or going to God, tugging on his sleeve, and saying, “Can I skip this part?” it probably isn’t courageous.


Courage is personal.

Your act of courage may look completely different from mine. It could be as quiet as looking a bully in the eye or as loud as launching a nonprofit to fight human trafficking.


Courage is not necessarily bravery. 

All the English occurrences of the word “brave” in the Bible’s Old Testament refer to brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. 1 Chronicles 12:8 (NIV)

The word bravery conjures a picture of the soldier advancing into the desert where the sand may hide a lizard or a land mine. Bravery seems to have more to do with a reaction to danger that is innate in some or ingrained in others. Bravery is the Israelite warrior, the Navy Seal…the mother of triplets.

Courage doesn’t happen apart from God.

Unlike “bravery” in both the Old and New Testaments, being courageous happens when the believer is bolstered, emboldened by the presence of God. Soldier or paralytic, leader of the Israelites or bleeding woman clutching at Christ’s hem, each of these people in the Bible is commanded to take courage, because God is with them.

That’s why we can all be courageous. We can be like the two disciples standing before their accusers. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were … ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

[Clive Birtles at the wheel of the car with the dog, Wowser]

So what does the year of being courageous look like?

I’m not sure. We Christians can yak all we want about trusting God, but he can call you to some crazy shit.

Lately, for me, courage has looked like leaning on the peace my daughter and I both sense about her decision to travel overseas instead of the American path of summer job at the mall and majoring in “undecided” at community college.

Maybe courage would mean sticking with my three-year plan to freelance write full time.

Or no longer dreaming every Saturday morning of 10 acres in, North Carolina and actually move there.

Or flying to India to wash the feet of a leper.

The words Be Courageous don’t lend themselves to a bullet-pointed list but rather to a commitment to be open, to be willing. Maybe that’s a better phrase, but it feels a little safe, cleaned up. Being courageous is scarier, messy even.

On a postcard my daughter sent me from her missionary camp, she wrote that I was full of courage. As much as I would like to say, “Awesome, mission accomplished! Year of being courageous completed ahead of schedule!”

I know that whatever it is she sees may only be a glimpse of God beginning to do some work…

…of God empowering an ordinary woman to live, not only the rest of the year, but the rest of her life, courageously.


What would a Be Courageous year look like for you?

9 thoughts on “The Year of Living Courageously

  1. I read your blog before heading to a staff meeting. I was stressed beyond measure and was writing all over my notes “Be. Courageous.” it reminded me that I have lived courageous in the past but I have gotten comfortable. Thank you!


    1. So glad you shared this story, Stephanie. Thank you! You also hit on an important practice, one I mentioned in my post. Writing down our words. The practice helps us remember and learn and commit, kind of like making a contract with ourselves. Even if the meeting didn’t turn out as you would have liked, you made your own strides.


  2. This is so well said – I just love it. I feel like I truly hear your voice – maybe you are onto something with this idea…how an ordinary woman finds courage. I agree – it is soooo easy to think and dream and wistfully wish away our lives. So much harder to act. It takes a leap – and that’s not at all easy (for me, anyway). I am cheering you on, friend, waiting to see what is next for you!


    1. Well, I’m truing to follow in your footsteps! (Leapsteps?)

      Looking at the references to courage in the OT and NT and reading the manning in Greek and Hebrew was a fascinating study…and encouraging.

      Thank you for your kind words!


  3. Loved this Amanda … if you decide that Courage IS going to India to wash the feet of a leper, please take me with you. I’m trying SO hard to heard God’s voice for direction in my life these days, your contemplative blogs help me through this dry journey of waiting.


    1. Thank you for sharing that, Ruth. I’ll let you know, although it may not look like anything I expect. I truly believe the key to all of this is being open to God; the courage will come in to play when we decide whether or not to act on what he puts before us. Maybe we wait because God is waiting for us to be at a point where we have a greater willingness to obey.

      I appreciate all of your comments!


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