Courage, dear heart.
I never considered myself a fearful person.
Over the years, my life has been filled with its fair share of crazy adventures and giant leaps of faith. My bucket list includes items like bungee jumping and skydiving. Many have called me brave; few have called me fearful.
In late 2016, I unexpectedly lost my job and found myself wondering what would come next, and as I contemplated my next steps in life, a familiar desire came up — to run my own business, join the world of the self-employed, and have the flexibility I’d dreamed about since my first day in a gray cubicle.
But then the questions started racing through my head. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I failed? What if people saw me fail? What would I do then?
Then I heard it, that small whisper. Sarah, stop being so afraid.
Yes. Me, afraid.
As I dug into that feeling, I saw countless moments over my 27 years where I’d let fear write the story. Chances I didn’t take. Adventures I didn’t experience. Calls I didn’t make. Conversations I didn’t have. Over and over and over again, I saw fear splashed on the walls of the story of my life.
Overwhelmed by the weight of all the things I’d missed out on because I’d been afraid, I wondered — how different would my life be if I’d lived from a place of trust and love instead of fear?
Then I heard it again, that small whisper. Courage, dear heart.
I first experienced that phrase as a child, as I made my way through C.S. Lewis’ famed Chronicles of Narnia. The third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, chronicles a seafaring journey, of both the Dawn Treader and its crew, as they sail across the ocean in search of loved ones lost.
On their journey, they come to the Dark Island. Everyone is afraid and they decide to turn back, until Reepicheep, the tiny mouse with a lion’s heart, encourages them to not step back in the presence of fear but to face it. So they sail on.
Once in the darkness, they sail and sail, until a voice calls for help and they pull a man aboard. He immediately tells them to go — “Fly! Fly! About with your ship and fly! Row, row, row for your lives away from this accursed shore.”
The island to which they sail, he says, is the island where dreams come true. Not daydreams of happiness and light, but the dreams that make you never want to sleep again.
Now fearing for their lives, the Dawn Treader turns about and sails away from the island. But no matter how long they sail, they remain in darkness.
In complete desperation, Lucy whispers, “Aslan, Aslan, if you ever loved us at all, send us help now.” Shortly thereafter, a pin of light pricks the sky, and an albatross circles the mast and leads them toward safety.
Then Lewis penned these words:
“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
In a few moments the darkness turned into a grayness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realised that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.”
Many read these words and latch onto that now iconic phrase, myself included, for its words are now permanently etched on my arm.
But the more important words comes a few sentences later — “And all at once everybody realised that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.”
You see, fear is big. It’s bold, it’s loud, and it has no qualms about making itself known. It envelops us, much like the Dark Island, until it seems there is no way out, no possible path to escape.
In those moments, we often do need to hear “courage, dear heart,” a loving call for courage in the face of great darkness and fear. But what carries us beyond those moments is the realization that fear doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t even tell a true story.
So many of the things we fear have no basis in reality. They’re lies imprinted into our minds and hearts because of things we’ve heard and believed, things we’ve experienced, and things the devil wants us to think. They may be big and bold and hard to ignore, but they're still lying.
Fear wants to keep you trapped. It wants to keep you sailing around in the darkness, afraid of sleep, afraid of life, afraid of anything that frees you from monotony and insignificance.
But oh, dear heart, you were created for so much more. You were created to love big and loud and long, to move mountains and slay giants, to do hard and beautiful things. You were created by a loving God who beat back everything worth being afraid of so you could live your life abundantly, with boldness and confidence, because you are dearly loved.
Don’t let fear have the last word. Don’t let fear have any word. It doesn’t get to tell the story about who you are and what you’re capable of. You are loved deeply and fiercely and the world needs every courageous bit of you.
Have courage, dear heart, for there is nothing to be afraid of and never has been.