A Senior Moment
by Rev. Bob Johnston
November 6, 2016
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"I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it"
... Nelson Mandela
His name was Bob, an old soldier and a faithful member of my congregation. Early in November a few years ago, I was preparing my Remembrance Day sermon and approached Bob as part of my research.
The question I asked him was about bravery in battle. How does a soldier conquer fear long enough to jump out of the safety of his foxhole to attack an enemy machine gun emplacement? How can a pilot and his crew fearlessly climb into a Lancaster bomber to fly over Germany, knowing that murderous anti-aircraft fire will soon greet them? How did those sailors overcome an understandable dread of being torpedoed and leave a safe harbor to search for Nazi subs lurking under the stormy and frigid North Atlantic?
Bob smiled indulgently because he had been asked this question many times. His honest response surprised and enlightened me: "Not afraid? Of course, I was always afraid. In Northern Germany near the end of the war, I remember jumping into a baker’s large brick outdoor oven to escape an artillery bombardment. And my fear told me to stay there---but I soon crawled back out."
I learned a lesson that day, a truth lived out daily by Nelson Mandela through his own difficult years of persecution. To be courageous is to do what needs to be done even in the midst of being afraid. After all, who would need to call upon courage if there were no risk of danger or pain or death?
As we approach November 11, it is timely to remember those men and women of our armed forces who lived with fear and still acted with courage wherever and whenever they were called upon to serve our country.
Their example also has resonance for us in
our own daily lives, even if far removed from those horrific dangers of
warfare. Two lessons emerge from their stories: FEAR IS OK. How often we
deny our fears. Many men, from an early age, have been taught that fear
is only for sissies. As a result we have swallowed those fears and
denied their existence.
Courage is being
scared to death—and saddling up again.
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Saturday, November 05, 2016