Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fictional Wisdom- Fear and Courage

As I said in an earlier post, I think Jesus might be a reader of fiction.

A recent fictional read for me was Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow. It's historical fantasy with a protagonist named Helikaon who is a warrior and a leader. While I find it hard to identify with a Dardanian prince sailing the oceans, I did identify with something in the character that all of us wrestle with, fear. Here is a moving scene in the book where Odysseus, an older mentor, is telling Helikaon (his boyhood name was Aeneas) about the relationship between fear and courage. Tragedy had struck the boy when his mother died and he was paralyzed with fear, but Odysseus believed that there was a warrior inside of him that simply needed encouragement.

Odysseus moved away from the cliff edge and sat down on a grassy bank. "There is no courage without fear, Aeneas. A man who rushes into battle fearlessly is not a hero. He is merely a strong man with a big sword. An act of courage requires the overcoming of fear." Raising his hand, palm outward, he instructed the boy to do likewise. Then he reached out and pressed his palm to the boy's. "Push against my hand," he said. Aeneas did so. Odysseus resisted the push. "Now, this is how courage and fear work, lad. Both will always be pushing. They are never still." Dropping his hand, he looked out over the sea. "And a man cannot choose to stop pushing. For if he backs away, the fear will come after him and push him back another step and then another. Men who give in to fear are like kings who trust in castles to keep out enemies rather than attacking them on open ground and scattering them. The enemies camp around the castle, and now the king cannot get out. Slowly his food runs out, and he discovers the castle is not a very safe place to be. You built a castle in your mind. But fear seeped through gaps in the walls, and now there is nowhere else to hide..."
When I was interning, an older man said to me "fear is the greatest motivater in the world." Too many are controlled by it. The story of Aeneas reminds us that we must not run from or hide from our fear. Courage flies in the face of fear and is the only real way to overcome it.

Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.
~Psalm 27:3 (NLT)