Have You Been Nurturing a Spirit of Timidity? Why We Should Kick Our Polite Cowardice in the Teeth.

We were raised to be timid, most of us. In the tiny white churches speckling the countryside, we were taught to be cautious, to be courteous, to be kind and good and avoid even the appearance of evil. Being a good Christian looked like wearing clean, pressed clothes to Sunday School, like going to grandma’s for baked chicken after services, like doing well in school so the community would respect your family, and like never, ever mouthing off to an adult.

To be a Christian was to be respectable. But Jesus wasn’t exactly respectable. At least, he didn’t fit his cultures definition of the word. He wouldn’t fit ours, either.

No, Jesus was courageous. And he got into a lot of trouble for it. He’d get into a lot of trouble nowadays, too.

I’ve been pondering courage lately, and what that looks like in the Christian life. My friend James preached a great sermon on Jesus’ courage last week (he’s been preaching a lot on courage lately). Now, I am not a naturally courageous person. I’m not a shrinking violet, but neither do I thrive on challenge and controversy, the way some people do. The sermon made me realize how much of my reticence, how much of my holding back, stems from a deep-seated subconscious belief that I am not *supposed* to be brave. That I am supposed to be good, and cautious, and respectable. That my life should be a beige, mother-of-the-groom dress, never a warrior’s shining mail.

All my life I have been waiting for permission. Permission to shuck the respectable, if beautiful, skirt entangling my legs. Permission to bring my full strength to the battle. Permission to scream out the war cry bottled up inside me, to charge into the fray shoulder to shoulder with my brothers, permission to get bloodied in the fight.

(Strong language from an almost-pacifist, huh?)

I’m tired of sitting primly on the sidelines. And I don’t think that’s just a “girl thing” either–I think my brothers are tired of sitting on the sidelines too, armor rusting, ceremonial swords that have never drawn blood dangling useless at their sides.

It’s time to get off the bench. It’s time to get dirty, to play for keeps, to pour our sweat and blood and tears into this earth we’ve been given, this Kingdom that’s coming. It’s time to stop worrying about how we’re going to get the stains out of our Sunday best if we dive into the battle and come out worse for the wear. God’s got a big ol’ spraybottle of Shout up in the heavenly laundry room.

What if, instead of encouraging one another to be good, responsible citizens Christians, we encouraged one another to be bold, daring followers of Jesus? And not just any Jesus–certainly not the American, white-picket-fence Jesus–but the brave, gritty, gentle, sinewy, loving, sarcastic, courageous and counter-cultural Jesus described on the pages of the Gospels?

What if we gave each other permission?

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 2:6-7

10 Responses to Have You Been Nurturing a Spirit of Timidity? Why We Should Kick Our Polite Cowardice in the Teeth.

  1. Tim October 31, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Have you read Mark Galli’s “Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God “? It is an excellent study of just how un-timid Jesus was. Galli is the Editor of Christianity Today and a very engaging, accessible and thoughtful writer.

    When it comes to my own need to be un-timid, I like how the New Living Translation puts Psalm 56:11 – “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”

    Yeah, what can they do to me? Nothing God can’t handle.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong October 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      I actually haven’t read ANY of his books yet! I’d say I’d check it out, except precious few books get read around here nowadays that aren’t school assignments or read to me on my iPod while I fold laundry, etc.

  2. Lorraine October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Thank you . I needed this today.

  3. Marg October 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been thinking about my own cowardice lately, and the issue seems to be popping up everywhere. I am outspoken about by Christian faith, and my egalitarian beliefs, but also find it hard to know when to speak up. I often seem to be deferring to others and am the last to speak–but I usually do speak.

    I’ve always thought of real Christianity as being gutsy; and I think God wants me to be bolder. But I’m concerned that if I am bolder I’ll be perceived as being obnoxious and pushy, and that I may even be acting and speaking without the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance.

    I don’t believe that spiritual battles are won with words. Words educate and inform, but it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts and illuminates minds.

    So I’m still thinking about this and talking it over with God, while trying to make the most out of every opportunity, and looking for more . . .

    • Tim October 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      “Words educate and inform, but it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts and illuminates minds.”

      Best line I’ve read in a blog comment all day. With insights like that, I think you should speak up more!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong October 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

      Ooh, I hear you! I agree–words aren’t much use unless God is already at work in that area. For me, it’s less an issue of speaking up than an issue of moving forward with my own life. I have a hard time making decisions–even perfectly reasonable decisions–that shake up my status quo without a voice coming from heaven and lights shining down on my head and angels bursting into song. And even then I figure maybe it was meant to be a sign to somebody standing behind me. 😀 The only person whose heart I’m worried about changing and mind I’m worrying about illuminating is myself!

  4. Marg October 31, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks Tim. :)

  5. darlene June 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    when i accepted Christs’ free gift of salvation Feb.23rd 1991… i didnt realize what i was getting myself into! i defenitly knew what i had to get out of!!! well, all Praise to God He has given us all we need to be pleasing to Him!!!! die to our flesh everyday n living in Him,,, is a thing we do on purpose!! we wake up n decide who we will serve…… Him or ourselves. when we choose Him ,,, Hes there every step; giving us His wisdom,strength,power,boldness n gentleness…….. today i say “Thank You Jesus for not giving up on me!!! here iam use me for your glory!!! no matter what that may include….. now that i know what i got myself into…. Awwwwww the relief !!! the peace in knowing its not on my shoulders any more!!!! all of it.. FINISHED!!! on the cross because of the selfless sacrifce of JESUS!!!!! the only Bible some may ever read is the One we Live before them!!! God help us to be mindfull .

  6. Michael January 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    I consider myself one of the brothers you mention who struggle with timidity. Right before Advent I read those verses from 2 Timothy 2 and made that a topic of personal study in 2014. I enjoyed your article and would be interested to hear the sermons you mention on courage – are they available online?

    My other comment/question is about your use of “sarcastic” to describe Jesus. Would you mind elaborating on that?

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