I am listening to the unabridged audiobook Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s series. Samwell is craven. He calls himself craven, feels craven and dreads circumstances he knows will proclaim his cravenness. John Snow commands Samwell to cease calling himself craven; while Samwell might be craven in his heart John forbids him from speaking it aloud. And despite feeling craven, Samwell is far from cowardly. In the clutch, Samwell’s bravery astonishes. Cowardice is the failure to act valiantly in that clutch moment; in a critical moment, a man’s character fails. Cravenness is the overwhelming fear of failing, the dread of timidity and the lack of faith that you have a backbone and that in a desperate moment, you cannot be dependable.
I am craven. I dread circumstances. I avoid things that I fer will result in my failure or rather the failure of my character. I am craven about confrontation; I am thankful I am not my office manager. Out of my fear is born the tendency for a disproportionate response. I dread the confrontation and so I over prepare; I come like Rambo or the Terminator when all I needed was a slingshot. The misconception for others is that I appear to be completely without fear. If I come packing like Armageddon, then I must be fearless about stepping into the fray. Just the opposite.
And so like most people ruled by fear, I simply avoid that which causes me trepidation and stick to the stuff I have no hesitation. Like a Matchbox car on a black plastic racetrack, I go round and round and round without reserve. My individual track is known and predictable. But push me to an unfamiliar place and I quake. I have to literally shove Geronimo to my mental forefront as motivation. I must be my own awful stage mother; I must shove the pee-in-the-pants, barf backstage child actor out from behind the curtains in the wings into the spotlight. If I want to be a star, I have to walk out on stage.
Anyone who knows me knows that I loathe acting. I actively and vocally refuse any situation that requires me to “act”. I would never go on a talent show. I’d never do community theater. The mere thought gives me shudders. Yet, each time I must overcome my craven inner voice, I act. I put on the armor of the brave warrior and I step into the fray as if fearless. And in that moment, I realize: The Warrior is not fearless about war. The warrior is simply willing to take the first step. If you believe in the cause, in the realm, then in the moment of need, the courage arrives and works through you. Courage is not of a man; courage works through a man whose soul is willing. Courage comes from a higher place. A miserly, parsimonious soul closes to His Will and is proven the coward. And while I may be craven, I know I am no coward. I am willing to surrender my soul to a greater Will. I’ll put on my armor, I will suit up, I will go to the front lines, I will accept the mission. And on the dawn of the offensive, I will surrender….not to the Enemy….but to the Will higher than my own. I will submit to Their plan for me and I will do as I command.
There are more times in the New Testament of Jesus saying, “Do not fear” than there are of him commanding us to love. And in that I realize God knows man’s craven heart. He knows mine. He knows I need compassion and affirmation: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. And in the darkest moment, simply open your heart to My Will and I will bring you home.”