The Quietness of Courage
Warm, soapy suds drip off my hands. I wipe the last pot dry, and set it onto the clean counter. Thirty minutes of peace, while my husband plays with our daughter in the living room. Mundane chores—folding laundry, cleaning dishes, and making the bed—seem like a break when I have been with a fifteen-month-old all day. A sip of wine out of the half-empty glass on the counter, and I hum to Switchfoot. In these moments, I do not feel the need to be courageous about anything. We are safe, healthy, and happy. The stories with which my husband comes home, however, are anything but those things.
Understand—my husband works in a field where he relates to death, tragedy, and sorrow every day. He sees suffering and isolation, and hears first-hand what it is like to live a courageous life. It occurs to me, day in and day out, that he must wonder at our relative peace . . . it is so mundane and ordinary. Right now, it is full of diapers, errands to Target, and housework. Perhaps he begins to wonder where there is room for courage in our home life. I know that I do. The feeling of where do I make a difference lays heavily on me; it seems to coincide with my desire to live more than an ordinary life.
Everywhere I look, I see unordinary lives full of obvious courage. Heroes rise in war-torn countries, women fight for their rights, children risk their lives for food, and various cultural groups fight to practice their religions. Those of us with manicured lawns, food in our pantries, and vehicles sitting in our driveways, may never know what it feels like to practice that type of courage.
“Perfect courage means doing un-witnessed what we would be capable of with the world looking on.” – La Rochefoucauld
One thing I do know: the world often misses quiet acts of courage, even those that affect history in meaningful ways … It is not a loud affair when poor girls wrestle modern challenges to secure life and well-being for their children. The world takes little notice when women in abusive relationships take positive actions to protect themselves. Sometimes, not even our family and friends are aware of our darkest moments—grave times in which we act with a profound mixture of meekness and courage. But it is in these quiet, dreadful moments, that courage blooms forth like a spring flower.
In my own case, I think of the early spring of adulthood, at which time I moved away. Far away from family and friends, I was uprooted from everything familiar. The move away was an act of faith. I perceived it as the only way to be with my now-husband. His work required him to stay in Texas, so that is where we made our first home. At the time, it was simply the answer to our hearts’ desires… I now wish I had given myself more credit for it. There were many days I could have caved in and decided not to go or to turn back. My grandmother’s passing was perhaps one of the most difficult times. It caused me to reflect that I may have made erroneous choices—distanced myself too much. Was it courage or self-interest?
Within the first few fresh and beautiful new months of marriage—when my husband and I were just learning to walk together—we opened our lives to new life. I perceived of it as a yes to God—that we would be open to children despite the drawbacks and expense. We embraced the unknown and welcomed. Making that decision reminds me that courage often requires one to venture into the relative unknown. The first instance of each of life’s milestones is surrounded with uncertainty. Coping with that uncertainty requires courage and fortitude.
Our sweet girl’s entrance into the world was characterized by many fearful and joyful moments. Statistically, many of you have dealt with birth trauma of some kind, and can relate to this kind of struggle. I applaud you for the times you face those memories because they are truly a mix of joy and fear. Of course, in the wake of a traumatic birth event, to welcome another child would require a special brand of courage. So many women know of this, and harbor even deeper fears than my own.
Many of you raise children without a village. Some of you try and try again for children without success—yet you keep trying. Don’t fail to see the courage in yourself! Dear ones, you have seemingly insurmountable struggles and will need to reach deep within yourself when no one else is watching. You will soothe the screaming child and choose a loving hand instead of a harsh one. You will pep talk yourself in the dead of night to nurse the newborn when you are long past tired. I pray you find the courage to perceive beauty in yourself each and every day.
As I unlatch the baby gate between our kitchen and living room to join my small family, I cannot help but smile. There are definitely moments within this seemingly mundane life in which to be courageous. I am proud to be part of this large village called motherhood, as it contains some of the most strong-hearted women I have met.
Written by, Nyssa Biszko