“The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways.”
– Actor Gene Hackman –
Emblazoned on my favorite tea mug–a huge, fire-engine-red tea mug–are the words of the now almost-cliche phrase: “Keep calm and carry on.”
I guess it’s so effective because so many people need to hear.
I’m not sure how many really listen to advice written on a mug, though.
Because there are those little every-day mess-ups. The “that-was-sure-a-dumb-mistake” syndrome recurs on a daily—if not hourly—rotation in my life. How ‘bout yours?
And then there are the tragedies. Those mistakes that seemed so innocent, but you end up feeling like a 300 pound linebacker took a dive into your stomach. I know all about those too…the hard way.
Because all of a sudden I blink and that one bad choice down-spiraled into a colossal failure and I wonder if I’ve learned anything since graduating kindergarten….Make that preschool.
Everything crumbles—everything that feels so important right now.
And I crumble too—into tears and wishings that it had never happened and anger at myself for being so blind.
And—honest? I want to quit. I want to throw up my hands and scream a surrender and bury my head in the sand for the rest of the year….or the century.
The unnerving trickle of defeat seeps straight through me.
I collapse with streaking tears and scribble out my frustrations, or type them on stiff keys that don’t click-clack nearly loudly enough to soothe my dissatisfaction.
I linger on the edge of throwing everything away—but feel a pull back. I pause, wondering how far to let the frustration carry me. Knowing, somehow, that I’ll lose more than I know if I let the failure-weight carry me right over that mental cliff.
And then…the thought of soldiers.
Grimy, blood-stained. Crouching with a couple dozen other bodies that have the same dirt, the same backs that ache from trench-digging, the same eyes bloodshot with weariness.
In that mental image, I see myself, the recruit clutching the gun, huddled in the trenches with all the rest.
And I’m the only one that stands up and tosses the gun out to the enemy. I’m the only one who gets sick enough of the fight to scream surrender and flag a white cloth and throw up hands dirt-creased with despair.
I’m the only one, in the middle of heroes, who turns my back on the trench of blood and valor and muck and majesty and shouts over the fray. “It’s too hard, boys. Nobody said it would be this hard. I’m outta here!”
Nobody said it would be this hard?
“In this world you will have trouble….”
– John 16:33b –
Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.
See, in that battle, I’m the coward. Walking out, I’m no hero.
Because the heroes stay.
Heroes always stay.
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
– Proverbs 24:10, NKJV –
Some heroes are made in the instant, the teenager who pushes a child out of the path of a bus or the soldier that curls around a detonating grenade to save his comrades.
But other heroes are made in the trenches.
When the battle drags on and on and it doesn’t seem possible to make it out alive….
When the baby won’t stop screaming and the toddler is finger painting the wall with the pizza sauce left on the counter after lunch and the wide-eyed eight-year-old is desperately scrambling for a reason his baseball just crashed through the window when he was supposed to be taking out the trash….
When the piles of books look like mountains waiting to crumble on your head and you can’t get a breath around the pressure….
When everyone’s depending on you and you just can’t hold up under it….
Do not quit. Ever.
You see, I too get tired in the fight. And somewhere along the way, I decide that giving up doesn’t sound so bad. After all–it’s just this once. A grade I could improve, but let myself slack off studying. A relationship that needs my words–but sometimes words are so hard to find.
We need a Burden-Bearer just to make it one more day.
Jesus never said it would be easy…
He never promised that we’d always have energy or that the battle would never shred our resolve…
But He did promise to always be right here.
He did promise to carry those burdens.
“Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.”
– Psalm 55:22, ESV –
So, we are still going to have to press on through difficult situations, exhaustion, and some things that just aren’t so fun.
But we will never do it alone.
So next time you see a mug, or a t-shirt, or a poster encouraging you to “keep calm and carry on”….
Do yourself a favor and DON’T!
At least not by yourself.
Keep Calm and…Let Him Carry You On.
“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured….”
– Hebrews 12:2, NKJV –
Thank you to Lucy Toner and Public Domain Pictures for the use of the photo “Work.”