Unleashing Courageous Faith
- Thursday, February 05, 2009
The Soul’s Third Dimension
Gentler virtues, tougher virtues—we need them both— but they are found and forged in different places and through different practices and disciplines. The church, and some para-church organizations like Ransomed Heart, Promise Keepers, Iron Sharpens Iron, and Women of Faith currently are helping the Tin Men: those who need to find their hearts. This is a remarkable and noble accomplishment of immeasurable impact. But we also need to help the many, many Cowardly Lions find their courage as well. And note the three—not two—main characters who need to rediscover their essence: more than just brain (Scarecrow) and heart (Tin Man)! We're so familiar with this third facet of being that often we don't even notice or consider it.
These three soulish "parts" of us have been hiding for a long time. And, as the song by the band America goes, Oz never gave them nothing that they didn't already have. It's there, in you, simmering but elusive, like your last moment of déjà vu. We need each other to find it, grow it, and honor it, so that someday we can say, like the Cowardly Lion, "What makes a king out of a slave? Courage!"
This force inside us is one that's shrouded in mystery like a mighty wind. Wind is an ancient symbol for thumos, and it's one of the ways the Holy Spirit is revealed in Scripture. This is where our heroic instinct is grown and where it's housed; this is where our innate longing to act nobly is found. We desperately need to tap it—this power that's missing in our culture and mostly missing in the church—but we don't know how. And, truthfully, we aren't even sure that we should. Our spiritual training has us believing it's a kind of Pandora's box, maybe best left untouched.
Listening to the well-meaning but naïve and spiritually negligent voices of mildness will lead to our demise. If you treat thumos as if it's just another flavor at the ice-cream counter of ministry, you will forgo love and the protection of what is good, right, and honorable. You will miss out on much growth and adventure, and the ability to subdue the cravings of your flesh. You will not have the skills you need to be the leader you want to be. You will remain fragmented and unstable in your nature.
All of us—and especially men—must lay claim to thumos so that God's grace in us can construct a new and dynamic person. Most of us will never fight a physical battle against an enemy; we will use our thumos, or not, for moral courage against both the evil spirit of the age that erodes human dignity and also against our own tendency to take the easy way through life, which halts spiritual growth. We must harness thumos to rise above the mediocre, trivial, social-club Christianity in which we too often find ourselves, shaking off the fearful and uninformed critics who worship comfort instead of truth. Because a shift is taking place: God is calling his people to fight for justice, and more and more of them are answering the call.
We have flexed compassion the world over to combat poverty and disease. But one of the most underreported reasons people's lives are so desperate isn't that they don't have the ability to feed and educate themselves—it's that others oppress them, rob them, maim them, and enslave them. Many don't need more bags of rice—not ultimately. They, like the estimated twenty-seven million people in actual slavery, like the 160,000 kids who stay home daily from American schools for fear of being bullied, need justice to rain down upon them from the hands of righteous people who will fight on their behalf. That's right, fight—one of evangelicalism's most feared words and even more feared actions. We need the men to move first—that's almost always how it works.
Thumos has a sinister side as well as a noble side, which should lead a man to embrace, not crucify, his martial spirit (that's the subject of the next chapter). Before we get into that, I need to give a disclaimer.
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