The Webster Dictionary gives the simple definition, “feeling or showing no fear: not afraid” to the word Brave. I recently heard the quote, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” It stuck with me so I later looked it up and found out it was by a local Indiana man, Elmer Davis. He was a reporter who made himself famous for his work during WWII. He saw first hand what we so beautifully picture as “brave”. Bravery is something that most Americans will quickly associate with the men and women who serve this country with courage and selflessness. I love that about our nation. We are a nation born out of a passion for freedom.
240 years ago, on July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. 240 years ago the United States of America declared that we were no longer under the rule of Great Britain. 13 little colonies turned into who we are today. When we think about all that our nation has overcome to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” it is nothing short of courageous. The men and women who have fought, who fight today, and who will fight for us tomorrow are oh so brave. When I think about this kind of courage that makes our great nation, at it reminds me of something so much bigger than the United States of America – it reminds me of Brave Love.
“I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John penned these words from Jesus in John 14:27. It’s a common thread echoed as a commandment from God throughout His word. Is this not the definition of bravery? God calls each of us to brave. I don’t believe that we can prevent the feeling of fear in our lives, but we can overcome that fear with brave love. Why “brave love”? I think the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Once we grasp how deep this Perfect Love is and seek to understand it, little by little we find more and more courage. And once we begin to live out our lives with brave love then we get to witness those around us learning to be brave too. The incredible Brene Brown said it like this, “Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue; You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by couraging.”
We see our riders making courageous decisions every day. Our riders have encountered pain and difficulty that is hard for many to even comprehend; yet, they choose each day to be brave. From battling cancer, to multiple surgeries, lifelong diagnoses, sexual abuse, orphaned – the list goes on and on. And it is not just riders who receive brave love and then learn to be brave but it is also their families. It is truly something…how do I say it…otherworldly.
In fact, I am reminded of a particular story of a young teenager who distinctly expressed gaining courage by couraging at Agape. This was a young man during a horse show that we were hosting for families several years ago specifically for the program he was in. He was riding Sandy, who for those of you who don’t know Sandy let’s just say she’s a large and in charge kind ‘a mare. After entering the arena to do the drill routine with his team, he panicked from fear. He dismounted and left the arena in tears. After we sat on the floor with him for a bit and talked through what he was feeling and thinking, we could never have imagined the decision he would make. At the end of the show he re-entered the arena proudly on Sandy. The instructor in the arena asked him what he had learned while at Agape and he said, “Courage. I have learned what it means to have courage.”
And that day at Agape, he was BRAVE. He was the recipient of brave love every week he came to Agape and that brave love taught him how to overcome his fears.
This is our greater calling to be brave. What does that mean for us personally? I don’t think it means we all go enlist in the armed forces. For some of us, that’s exactly what it means, but it doesn’t only exist there. Choosing to live with brave love is a decision we face every day in one way or another. Being brave enough to love the unlovable (even what we feel is the unlovable within ourselves), to put others before ourselves, to choose peace in a world of discontentment and hostility, to speak when our voice needs to be heard and be quiet when we just need to listen, to defend the vulnerable, or to let silence speak wisdom for us when anger wants to win the argument.
Today -we are grateful for God’s perfect and brave love that drives out our fears. And we are grateful for the brave love of our servicemen and women that protect our freedom. At Agape we have a mission within our Core Values to serve horses and humans with excellence. We call it “The Agape Way”. We want to take this Independence Day to embrace courage and fearlessness to serve you and support you on your personal journey with a brave and fierce love. We promise to continue learning courage by couraging so that we can walk alongside you in hopes that some of our courage will pour into you. And we know that in our commitment to this Brave Love, we honor the courageous men and women who have gone before us and even fight for our freedom now so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
What can you do to learn courage by couraging? What acts of brave love will you make this week?
From all of us at Agape Therapeutic Riding Center have a happy and safe July 4th!